We can all help control health-care costs
BY SCOTT VAUGHN
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 4:05 AM
As the debate about how to improve our health-care system continues across the nation, it's important to look at our options when it comes to making health insurance coverage readily available for Oklahomans. One of the most important steps in making health care accessible is to make it more affordable.
This is something we can all work together to accomplish. As CEO of GlobalHealth, an Oklahoma-based health maintenance organization, I've seen how the system works from the inside out. Being a father of a 1-year-old, I've seen how the system works from the outside in. Through my experiences, I have identified a few ways we can work to control health-care costs.
To begin with, everyone needs access to a primary care physician who can serve as the health-care champion of his or her patients. They can develop personal health-care plans for patients, including plans to maintain and improve their health. Focusing on preventive care and keeping patients healthy will reduce health-care costs for all.
In order to make this possible, government payers and insurance companies should improve compensation to primary care doctors, so they can spend the necessary time with their patients to improve their health and reduce their overall health-care costs.
Out-of-pocket costs also need to be reduced for patients. If health insurance plans have low premiums but high deductibles and coinsurance, patients might delay a simple visit to the doctor or not take prescription medications that could help them. That simple illness or manageable chronic condition could worsen, leading to more expensive care for the patient down the road.
Lowering out-of-pocket costs doesn't mean people will burden the system by asking for unnecessary care. Most people would prefer not to access the health-care system if they don't have to. But, reducing out-of-pocket costs makes care more accessible.
Patients should keep an open line of communication with their insurance company to make sure they have the proper coverage they need to stay well. It is in the best interest of an insurance company to send patients to high-quality providers; otherwise costs to the patient and to the insurance company could escalate if complications occur.
If Oklahomans aren't getting good service from their health plan, they should look for another plan. There may not be another option today, but in the near future, shopping for health insurance on an exchange will provide patients with alternatives. Your insurance company should want you to go to the best quality doctor, because they should think long-term about keeping you healthy.
Finally, one of the factors that contributes to higher health-care costs for everyone is noncompliance. Patients should follow their doctor's advice and complete the recommended treatment plan. If everyone takes responsibility for improving their own health, it will help lower costs for all.
Scott Vaughn of Tulsa is CEO of GlobalHealth, Inc., an Oklahoma-based health maintenance organization.
Scott Vaughn: If everyone takes responsibility for improving their own health, it will help lower costs for all