The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been both a blessing and curse to health care innovation.
On the plus side, it has forced employers to be more aggressive about managing their costs and improving outcomes in anticipation of the 40% excise tax on Cadillac-style health benefits slated to take effect in 2018. The issue is now more pressing than ever in this new environment where employees are expected to make smarter choices and become better health care consumers.
For many employers, however, the ACA has taken an enormous amount of energy to ensure that their health plans are in compliance. One unintended consequence is that they’re focused on nuts and bolts at the expense of innovation.
But there’s also tremendous potential to move the needle in this ever-changing marketplace. Technology unlocks access to incredible amounts of information on anything from how to prepare healthy meals and where to shop for key ingredients to the most effective ways to monitor and manage chronic conditions. There also are various wellness apps and fitness trackers that help get people into shape and maintain healthy behaviors.
In addition, it has never been easier to access information about the cost, quality, and value of providers when shopping for health insurance. The ACA encourages health care consumers to be more cognizant of price and open to high-deductible health plans if they happen to be an appropriate fit.
Another huge trend in innovation that honors the spirit of the ACA is the emergence of patient-centered care, medical homes, and accountable care organizations — all of which promote value-based purchasing. Technology also will be at the forefront of delivering more efficient care.
Telemedicine, for example, will enable patients to text or e-mail their dermatologist photos of a suspicious rash or mole rather than schedule a face-to-face appointment. The approach could extend to the behavioral health side, with provider visits augmented by online targeted behavioral therapy, as well as tele-therapy or tele-psychiatry.
Mercer has assembled a panel of experts to reflect on key health care reform developments and share their expectations for the future. David Kaplan, MD, is a Senior Partner in the Employee Health & Benefits business at Mercer, where he is currently launching Mercer's Health & Benefits Innovation Hub that will partner with innovative companies to create employer-centric solutions for a broad variety of health and benefit challenges.