For all the talk about the Affordable Care Act, population health, value-based reimbursements and Accountable Care Organizations, arguably the biggest "curve bender" for healthcare costs will be growth of the high-deductible health plans that force patients to become smarter consumers.
Savvy healthcare consumers bearing higher deductibles and co-pays will bring with them a list of expectations that come from the retail sector, including price transparency, access, convenience, and value.
"The big shift for 2014 is that the healthcare business model is starting to turn from wholesale to retail," says Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC's Health Research Institute. "Instead of insurance companies selling to one large employer for thousands of employees, you now have individuals going online one-by-one and shopping. That means creating different products and creating different product plans. It means education and outreach and advertising that is very different."
The growth in high-deductible health plans is accelerating. Connolly points to annual PwC surveys of about 1,000 employers and coverage options for employees. In 2012 13% of the companies said they were offering only high-deductible plans for employees. That figure grew to 17% in 2013 and 44% in 2014 and 2015.