Helping consumers be savvy health care shoppers

The number of people enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) through their employer is growing. Almost 90 percent of enrollees in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces are in a plan with a deductible above the amount that qualifies a plan as an HDHP. And as our past Community Checkup reports have shown, there continues to be wide variation in quality and patient experience across our state.

At the center of all health care is the patient. More than ever, patients are being asked to act more like consumers, evaluating and shopping for the most high-value health care. To do this, they need tools and information to help them be savvy shoppers. The Alliance’s Own Your Health campaign and the Community Checkup website are two resources our members can use to help their employees or members understand value in health care.

Through a generous grant from the Washington State Health Care Authority, we launched a new and improved Own Your Health website. The site offers information and resources to help people understand what they should know to select a health plan and get high quality care and a good experience at a fair price. Once someone understands how to shop for value, the Community Checkup offers a way to actually compare quality and patient experience scores so they can be more informed when selecting a new health care provider. We will be launching a new and improved version of the Community Checkup at the same time as the 2016 Community Checkup report in early December.

We offer both websites as free resources for the greater community. However, our members receive additional benefits, like the ability to create a customized partner page on the Own Your Health website and tailored reports and information from the Community Checkup. In 2017, we will be launching a premium Community Checkup website which will offer even more robust analytic capability for our members and subscribers.

In addition to these resources and efforts, to truly help consumers make value-based decisions, all health care stakeholders need to be moving in the same direction toward value. We encourage our provider and health plan members to keep promoting transparency and improving quality and patient experience within their own organizations. The State is sponsoring a big push to make shared decision making tools more accessible, and plain language initiatives and better billing designs are making it easier for consumers to understand their health care and the bills they are receiving.

We are encouraged by this positive movement in our state. Thank you for your ongoing support of the Alliance and please share with us how we can work together to keep the momentum going toward value.

Published: October 7, 2016

About Nancy A. Giunto

Nancy A. Giunto is executive director of the Washington Health Alliance. Ms. Giunto served 14 years as executive director of Foster Pepper law firm in Seattle. She has had a long career in health care, with experience at National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C. and the American Hospital Association. She has held leadership positions at Intermountain Health Care and Providence Health & Services.

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