Countering Rising Healthcare Costs and High Deductibles in 2017

The cost of healthcare is a major concern for many consumers, with rising premiums, high deductibles and uncertainty over prices putting financial pressure on many U.S. households. Insurance companies are also struggling to make Obamacare profitable, prompting UnitedHealthCare and other insurance providers to leave exchanges, further reducing consumer choice and putting pressure on insurers to raise premiums. 

Marilyn Tavenner, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), recently told Morning Consult: "I've been asked, what are the premiums going to look like? I don't know, because it also varies by state, market, even within markets. But I think the overall trend is going to be higher than we saw previous years."

Citing general year-on-year increases in medical spending, rising drug costs and uncertainty within the insurance industry as contributing factors, Ms. Tavenner forecast a "trend in the wrong direction" regarding 2017 premium costs. One consequence of Obamacare, she said, was a growing tendency among potential patients to "churn", changing providers in favor of lower-cost polices, or even forgoing insurance until they are sick. This pattern leads to a rise in premiums, as insurers face growing uncertainty over who and how many people will hold policies in the coming years, she explained.

However, a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighted the ability of consumers to shop around for the lowest premium rates as potentially contributing to lower "actual" premiums next year. It is now easier for consumers to "find the best deal" when shopping for insurance and they have greater flexibility when purchasing policies, the report claimed. Taking the time to "find the best deal" is as important, if not more so, when booking a procedure or treatment. Whether on a high-deductible policy or self-paying, shopping around for prices on procedures (not only insurance) can significantly reduce consumer outgoings on healthcare services, thus mitigating some of the financial burden. 

With deductibles expected to increase in 2017 – figures from the HHS indicate a 4.4 percent increase year-on-year – the need for competitively priced healthcare services is likely to increase. Bronze plan deductibles are expected to rise to $7,150, potentially causing anxiety for many enrollees who are expected to shoulder a significant proportion of costs before they are eligible for co-pay.  In this climate, finding the best prices for healthcare treatment will be of growing importance to the average consumer, who is unlikely to reach the increasingly high deductibles stipulated in their policy.

MdSpark enables patients to locate competitively priced practitioners and pay an upfront, transparent fee for services, without the fear of unaffordable costs. The prepay system also benefits providers, who no longer need to absorb additional collection fees, defaults on payments, or unwanted no-show costs. These savings are reflected in the discounted rates available to MdSpark subscribers, who benefit from up to half off the usual price – significant savings in light of the high premiums, rising deductibles and continued market uncertainty.