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New health plans consumer-driven

Date Published: Monday, November 4, 2002

Next generation of products gives incentives to stay healthy, save costs

The costs of employee benefits plans increased 11 percent in 2001, and while employers picked up part of the tab, workers grumbled that deductibles have grown and care options have narrowed. It’s not a new problem.

What’s needed, managers for some health-care plans have concluded, is a generation of "consumer-driven" benefit plans that encourage employees to be healthier with their lives and smarter with their health-care dollars.

"The key theme here is choice," said John Robbins Sr., president of Little Rock health benefits software company DataPath Inc. "Choice that is available to the employee but cost neutral to the employer." Supporters say such plans could fulfill demands for increased choices while keeping costs down and encouraging competition. Employees would be motivated to stay healthy because they’ll benefit.

But detractors note that such plans are in their infancy and say they could leave chronically ill people with inadequate coverage and higher costs...

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