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Trust – Now is a Good Time (Part 3)

David P. Lind BenchmarkAlbert Einstein spoke of trust in the following way: “Every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily based on mutual trust.”

Trust in our healthcare system has been waning for a number of years…and it does not seem to show signs of improvement anytime soon.

A number of past studies provide sobering facts on the perception of our healthcare system:

  • In 1966, 73 percent of Americans expressed a “great deal of confidence” in our medical institutions. However, by 2004 that figure had dropped to 32 percent. (Data from Harris)
  • 79 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, “There is something seriously wrong with our healthcare system.” (National Coalition on Health Care 1997)
  • 87 percent of Americans agreed that “the quality of medical care for the average person needs to be improved.” (National Coalition on Health Care 1997)

Trust can be difficult to measure…but easier to understand.  Medical organizations that are sincere about pursuing and maintaining an enduring culture of trust should establish initiatives to emotionally connect with their patients to perpetuate that trust.

With the advent of “consumerism” in healthcare, the patient is no longer a passive bystander, but rather, an active partner when interacting with their provider(s). The healthcare organization that can successfully connect with the emotional well-being of the patient will reap abundant rewards within our new, evolving healthcare environment.

By having the “patient-centric” mantra carefully integrated within the DNA of the organization, a deeper patient trust can take root and eventually grow within (and beyond) the community in which the organization practices. As Alice K. Jacobs, MD, President of the American Heart Association once said, “Trust has been shown to be essential to patients, in their willingness to seek care, their willingness to reveal sensitive information, their willingness to submit to treatment and their willingness to follow recommendations.” Establishing a high level of trust is good not only for the patient, but also for their employer, the community being served, and of course, to the healthcare provider.

However healthcare reform turns out, this is a wonderful opportunity for healthcare providers to develop that new sense of trust that patients so desperately hope to have now and in the future. Now is a great time to build that currency of commerce we know as TRUST!


Small Employer? Want to know a SECRET?

David P. Lind BenchmarkYou can save money—up to 35%—on your portion of an employee’s health insurance premium. Here’s the scoop on a new Small Business Health Care Tax Credit you may not know about:

  • Must have 24 or fewer full-time equivalent employees
  • Must offer health insurance
  • Must pay at least half of an employee’s single (not family) health insurance premium
  • Employees’ average annual wage must be less than $50,000

Do you meet all of these criteria? Then you’re eligible to claim a tax credit of up to 35% of your contribution toward health insurance premiums.

This tax credit is designed to encourage smaller businesses to offer health insurance. It’s part of the complex and controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed in March of 2010, also known as the Health Reform Act. As of November, 2011, the IRS reported only 5% of taxpayers were claiming this credit.

How come most small employers aren’t taking advantage of this tax credit? Great question! Based on our 2011 Iowa Employer Benefits Study©, it’s because many aren’t  aware of it.

  • 57% of Iowa employers with 2 to 10 employees were unaware
  • 43% of Iowa employers with 11 to 25 employees were unaware

Also, the calculation is complex, with multiple steps. But don’t let that stop you. The best place to start learning more is here. To help small employers, the IRS created different tools for-profit and tax-exempt organizations. Be sure and talk to your tax advisor about this program, too. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can reap the savings.


Health Care Consumers vs. Users

David P. Lind BenchmarkEver thought about what it means to be a health care consumer versus a health care user?

Health care consumers have skin in the game, money on the table. They work to protect their health and actively look for the best health care value—researching options and making educated choices.

Health care users pay their monthly premium, go to an in-network provider and that’s that. Oh, they pay copays, but  they don’t have an incentive or the information to seek out the best value. Sadly, most of us fit under this category much too often.

Employers’ efforts to manage health care costs are becoming more focused on getting employees to become health care consumers rather than users.

National studies, such as Kaiser/HRET, and local research, such as the Iowa Employer Benefits Study©, show that more employers are embracing two interrelated concepts when offering health insurance coverage to employees:

  • Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHPs)
  • Wellness initiatives

In Iowa, only 4.5 percent of employers were offering components of CDHPs in 2005, but this number increased to over 20 percent by 2011. Also, more employers show interest in implementing wellness initiatives, in some cases providing financial incentives for employees to participate.

Consumer-driven health initiatives:

  • Emphasize making healthy lifestyle choices—eating right, exercising, not smoking, monitoring health numbers, etc.
  • Encourage employees (and their dependents) to seek out the most cost-effective care when seeking health care services. (Unfortunately, consumers are not privy to the actual costs. This is a big problem. See Clueless on Costs.(Blog)

More and more employers are working on plan designs that offer incentives to facilitate behaviors that improve employee health and lower health care costs.


Nationally, large employers are embracing a philosophy called Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID), providing incentives to employees to utilize evidence-based medical services. Deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket costs can be less to employees (and dependents) if they adhere to particular drugs regimens and treatments recognized as the most medically effective, and more if they choose tests and procedures deemed “overused.” There are pros and cons to everything, and VBID is no exception.

Until we can find the elusive ‘silver bullet’ to reign in health care costs, employers will need to assess new opportunities to help employees become more effective consumers of health care. These are some of the tactics currently being utilized. Their actual impact on employee behavior and health care costs remains to be seen.