Earlier this week I read that our country’s spending on health care has been at historic lows for a third straight year. The conclusion was formed by comparing health spending growth rates to the overall growth of the economy, reasoning that it’s easier to keep up with the costs if the two are aligned, than if health spending surges ahead.
When you dig deeper though, it still means that spending in the US amounts to nearly 18% of GDP, or $2.7 trillion in 2011, and averages out to $8,680 per American annually! This is significantly greater than any other developed country in the world.
I’m sure there are a number of reasons for the mild improvement. Perhaps the abundance of information on health and wellness has had a slight influence on lifestyle and healthy choices. Perhaps a tighter budget means we’ve reverted back to the way health care was used when many of us were kids…emergencies only! I recently heard a comedian talking about a time when he and his brother were throwing lawn darts in the yard, and while they were dodging them after each throw for fun, he failed to get out the of the way and ended up getting stuck in the leg. Their mom walked outside and said “take this cloth and put pressure on it, we’re NOT going to the doctor!” But I digress…
I have to believe though that yet another factor is the design and concept of Medicare Advantage. We now have close to 12 million beneficiaries on these plans, and primarily on coordinated care products like HMO, POS, and PPO. The “pay as you go” model, rather than prepaid health plans, brings a level of engagement that prompts the member to consider each choice a little more carefully. Also, with most MAPD plans you get other programs that increase well being, like case and disease management, exercise programs, more ancillary benefits, better transparency, and less fraud, waste, and abuse. With 25% of the Medicare market and growing, I have to believe this is having a positive impact.
Of course, there is still much room for needed improvement. Everyone can afford to learn more about the availability of programs and resources to improve our clients’ well being, and act accordingly. As insurance professionals in the senior space, we can have an enormous impact on this need for improvement, by staying current, and being that trusted source of information and guidance.