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Harv Bus Rev. 2002 Jul;80(7):44-50, 52-5, 123.

Let's put consumers in charge of health care.

Author information

  • Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. rherzlinger@hbs.edu

Abstract

Businesses spend billions on health insurance. And what do they get for their money? A lot of unhappy employees. Workers fret about the quality of the care they receive, the burden of their out-of-pocket expenses, and the gaps in their coverage. For businesses, health care has become a lose-lose proposition: They pay way too much, and they get way too little. The problem is that the health care industry has been shielded from consumer pressure--by employers, insurers, and the government. As a result, costs have exploded even as choices have narrowed. But if companies embrace a new model of health coverage--one that places control over both costs and care directly into the hands of employees--the competitive forces that spur productivity and innovation in consumer markets can be loosed upon the inefficient, tradition-bound health care system. Moving to consumer-driven health care requires that companies revamp their health benefits in six ways: Give employees incentives to shop intelligently; offer a real choice of insurance plans; charge employees prices that accurately reflect the company's costs; let providers set their own prices; adjust payments for each enrollee based on need; and provide relevant information. Putting consumers in charge of health care may seem like a radical approach. But individuals are highly motivated to educate themselves about their health, their insurance, and their care, and they want to seek the most value for their money. Promoting that economic dynamic--the same that fuels consumer markets everywhere--is the best way to enhance the health care industry's productivity and quality.

PMID:
12140854
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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