Thursday, October 15, 2015

Incentives Matter When Shopping Health-Care Supply

“Paula Bennett pockets about $3,000 a year from her employer mainly for driving around 80 miles roundtrip for a deal on doses of her Chrohn's disease treatment Remicade.

The extra income comes through SmartShopper, a program offered by some employers to provide cash to workers who choose quality health care options with lower prices.

"I absolutely love the program," said Bennett, 43, a fiscal specialist with New Hampshire's Division for Children, Youth and Families.

SmartShopper represents a twist in how corporate America is dealing with rising health care expenses. It's part of a push by employers to heap more responsibility for costs onto the people who are covered by their health care plans.

Companies for years have raised deductibles, or the amount employees pay before most of their coverage begins. They've also given workers online tools to help them shop for the best deals on things like imaging exams and bloodwork. Now, some are using cash to nudge employees toward those deals.

"We're in the process of changing habits," said Mitch Rothschild, founder of the health care data firm Vitals, which created SmartShopper. "And frankly there's nothing better for changing habits than to give somebody money."

SmartShopper works by offering financial incentives for about 40 categories, from lab tests to some surgeries. It steers clear of areas like cancer care, though, because Rothschild says "you don't want to hear from us on an economic incentive when your life is at stake." - Employers Offer Cash To Shop Around, 10/14/2015,

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