There was a time that when it came to buying our electronic devices, we would simply go to our local electronics store. Then, the onslaught of electronics superstores came at us like Best Buy, Circuit City, and Fry’s giving us a virtual cornucopia of electronic choices. In the late 90’s and then into the early 2000’s, the internet changed the game with websites like Buy.com, Next Tag, and Amazon where we could price compare quickly as consumers. Between the internet and smart phones today, information is at our fingertips to quickly compare and contrast the pricing on whatever electronic devices we are potentially going to purchase.
As most of us know, the health care landscape has changed over the past several years and should change dramatically when we get into 2014. When January 1st comes, the most popular part of health reform will be the concept of guaranteed issue. This means irrespective of pre-existing conditions health plans must be available to everyone. We will also see the unveiling of the state insurance exchanges which is purported to be an organized marketplace where both individuals and small businesses alike can shop private health insurance plans. We also know the dreaded individual mandate will come where you either buy health insurance or pay a penalty. That penalty will start at $95 an individual or $285 per family or 1% of income whichever is greater for 2014. Eventually that will rise to $695 and individual or $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income by 2016 if all laws stay current.
As all industries and business evolve, solutions within free market enterprise get created whenever there seems to be problems. Recently, one of the websites I stumbled upon is called SaveOn Medical (www.saveonmedical.com) whose motto is Search. Compare. Save. The idea behind this website is to make finding the lowest cost possible on a particular procedure as easy to shop for as you would for a flat screen TV. In Step 1, you can search for a term such as “affordable MRI” and the website will direct you to type in your city or zip code and you select it from the drop down menu. In Step 2, you select the specific procedure you need from the drop down list. You can specify the body part and then click the start button to begin finding the savings. You will typically see 10 different healthcare providers in your area. In Step 3, you can click the button and schedule an appointment. In Step 4, you can submit your payment.
Websites like these and others can also including a rating and ranking system so you can see things like patient recommendations, doctor specialties, and overall backgrounds of the doctors. Is it possible that one day, we will be in a situation where healthcare will end up just like the electronics business where we shop online for best price and closest location? We don’t know, yet, how all of this will turn out, but business models are evolving even as we speak to bring consumer choice to us at the touch of our fingertips.
It’s amazing how technology has impacted us both negatively and positively in many ways. When it comes to our own personal welfare, some of us may stick with our doctors even if they move to a concierge practice. Some of us may use the network that provides us with the best deal through our insurance. Some of us may just point and click on the internet and shop best deal from whatever is the closest practice to our house. Stay tuned as the next year will bring a lot of change. Somewhere in the summer or fal,l especially when it comes to open enrollment time, you should sit down as a family or with your financial advisor and review how your healthcare cost will impact your family budget. This may be a big smart money move for 2014!