Consumer attitudes about cost control

A recent consumer study indicates that people think insurers should be the ones to educate on health reform and take responsibility for lowering costs. Why is this? American Medical News weighed this question:

Given that the reform law mainly reforms the insurance market, it’s possible consumers believe insurers are going to be the best reference for what is changing, said Tim Lee, principal and consulting actuary in the Houston office of the consulting firm Milliman. “Nobody in any industry understands it better than people who work in the insurance industry.”

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the health insurance trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said insurers have done what they can to help lower the cost of care, including creating disease management programs, providing incentives to take generic drugs and investing in health information technology.

Lee called the survey results about who should reduce costs “a combination of funny and surprising.”

He said there could be a couple of explanations for so many people saying insurers should take responsibility for cutting health care costs: One is that they may remember insurers’ success at cutting costs in the heyday of managed care in the 1990s, and they are willing to see some of those methods return.

Lee said consumers will require a great deal of education to remain open to changes that might keep them from seeing the doctor of their choice or create more hoops for their doctors to jump through.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the doctor, the hospital and the consumer to control the cost,” he said.

But it might be giving the public too much credit to think they are ready for insurers to bring back tightly managed care, Lee said. It’s possible that consumers are considering only their own insurance premiums when it comes to health care costs: “What they may be thinking is, ‘Health care costs are manifested in my premium rate … so clearly the health insurance company must be responsible.’ “

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