I spent the early part of this past week attending the CDHC/Prepaid Expo in Las Vegas which is described as the premier strategy conference for employers and employer groups to efficiently and profitably deploy consumer-directed health care plans.
The conference described itself as powering the movement toward consumer-driven health care, by bringing together employers, banks, account custodians and providers to help shape the future of the industry. The conference invitations suggested that from consumers to insurance carriers, consultants to administrators, and providers to pharmacies, each stakeholder must understand the opportunities, challenges, and benefits of consumer-directed health care, and how to best introduce the most relevant accounts to employers and consumers. So true.
My biggest take-away from the conference was the fact that prepaid and debit card technology may have finally out-stripped the capacity for employers and employees to comprehend its use. It is clear that the card processors now have the ability to produce a card that can access several “buckets” of funds from which to pay for health care expenses. One might have an HSA, HRA, FSA, line of credit all on the same card, and I applaud this innovation. This choice of products will give employers the ability to structure a health plan that best suits the needs of their employees. The problem is that the general knowledge among consumers, and even insurance agents and employers, needs to catch up in order to make these sophisticated financial products widely used.
I noticed many employers who attended the conference just asking for the basics. “Does anyone have a template that shows how to implement a consumer-driven health plan?” “Uh, no.”
The question for all of the stakeholders listed above is: Who will do this education? Will it be the card processors, the issuing banks, the insurance carriers, the insurance brokers, the “industry”?
I would suggest that all of the above need to work together to create a climate of ongoing education that will help employers and their employees understand the benefits and uses of consumer-directed health plans. The degree to which we are successful will not only determine the future of the CDHC industry, but will determine the future of health care financing and delivery in the US.