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Why are health care costs going down?

QuickPoint!

People are becoming smart shoppers when it comes to health care. That’s helping to control and reduce costs. (Please note: There is a difference between health care and health insurance.)

More organizations have begun to buy health insurance the same way they buy building or fleet insurance. They purchase lower-cost, high deductible policies that cover unexpected, catastrophic events, and employees take responsibility for everyday, predictable services — vaccinations, stitches and the like.

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a Washington think tank, helps control its benefit costs by contributing $110 a month to each employee to purchase major-medical insurance. Employees are responsible for the first $500 of their annual health care bills. After that, Evergreen will pay for expenses up to a combined total of $2,499 per employee. Should an employee’s expenses hit $2,500, her major-medical health insurance will take over.

When we — read individuals — pay for health care, we begin to think and act smarter. We comparison shop for pharmaceuticals. We pay for routine care at the time of service to obtain price discounts. We have an incentive to exercise and make healthier lifestyle decisions — instead of relying on expensive disease management care. Finally, we make our own health care decisions, not bureaucrats.

Individuals can mimic employers to reduce their health care costs. Check out low-cost, high deductible insurance policies and learn about Flexible Spending Accounts, Medical Savings Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Arrangements. You can be part of the solution.

Kurt T. Weber is vice president of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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