Comparison shopping for healthcare is not for the faint of heart, which is one reason employers play such a big role. Employers choose which plans to offer their workers and how much employees pay. Many large employers take a more central role by “self-funding,” paying for workers' medical bills directly and customizing plans. Consumers are also getting in on the act with consumer-directed, high-deductible plans, where transparency at the retail level is even more important for informed decisionmaking.
When an employer is shopping for a health plan, one key differentiator is the prices that different plans have negotiated with providers. In the best-case scenario, employers would use their buying clout to pick the plan with the best pricing. In reality, employers are often in the dark, guided by brokers whose business model is built on this lack of price transparency.
The stakes are huge—this year, employers and their workers will pay close to $900 billion for coverage. A lack of transparency prevents healthcare purchasers from answering a basic question: What price are we paying and for what products and services?
If armed with receipts, employers will be in a better position to make decisions about their single largest benefit expense.