Taking more Responsibility for your own Health Care

In the same way that you should be smart about any other commodity you buy, you must be particularly well-informed about purchasing and managing you’re health care. Current trends in health coverage and care have begun to mirror those of personal financial management in following the theory of "consumer accountability." Therefore, you can expect to increasingly be required by health care providers to materially participate in your own care and maintenance. You should also expect to continue to shoulder at least a portion of the spiraling costs of health care.

In the old (and now virtually defunct) U.S. health care system, most working Americans were provided employer- or union-sponsored health insurance as an earned benefit. Employees selected their own doctors and depended upon them to coordinate the health care needs of their families. The health insurance company paid the doctor and specialist bills, and if hospitalization was needed it was paid for, as well. Moreover, hospitals were typically community-based or university-sponsored, and most were operated on a nonprofit basis. Conversely, the health care field as constituted today – from doctors to hospitals, to pharmaceutical companies, to health financial corporations and consultants, to Wall Street – is corporate business. And not just any corporate business – it's big corporate business.

Whether you're old enough to still have sponsored health care coverage, or you're a member of today's corporate health care structure, we're all nevertheless consumers of health care. And as consumers, we must be savvy enough to identify and select the health plan that's best for us and our families and to incorporate health care into our personal financial planning. If you don't understand your plan's coverage, then you must inquire with your employer, union, or coverage provider until you do. If you're uninsured and unable to obtain health coverage, your politicians are the ones whose attention you should command to help strategically adjust your access to health care.

The newest health care models today are known as Consumer-Driven Health Care, or CDHC, and they're founded upon (theoretically) sound principles. The nation's employers, their consultants, and the health care industry as a whole endured considerable repercussion from consumer backlash over the autonomous taskmastering of health maintenance organizations (HMOs). As a result, they created consumer-driven health care to allow individuals more freedom with regard to who provides and coordinates their care and what that care will consist of. The newer plans are less structured and more varied, providing more choices but also requiring more payment responsibility from the consumer. These models anticipate that if consumers pay their own health care bills (or a more significant part of them), then they will make healthier lifestyle choices; for instance, choosing not to smoke or abuse alcohol, to eat more healthfully, and to exercise with regularity. Those healthier choices (as the theory speculates) will result in savings not only for the individual, but also for employers and the entire health care industry because the overall use of health care will be curtailed. Consumers, being healthier, will naturally need less health care and be rewarded by keeping those out-of-pocket dollars at home. Meanwhile, the employers and the health care industry benefit by keeping down their out-of-control health care expenses, thus making it easier to continue to generate the profits that both their investors and Wall Street need to remain competitive in a global economy.

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