To keep costs down, consumers must act as advocates for cost and quality

If there is any chance of containing costs in the healthcare system, patients will have to be vigorous consumers who are curious about how much they pay for their care and advocate for keeping prices in check, Marketwatch reported.

"You can't be a citizen any longer and not realize there are no more magical solutions to these problems," Reed Tuckson, M.D., a consultant who was formerly an executive with UnitedHealth Group and the American Medical Association, told Marketwatch. "The increase in Medicare expenditures is so huge. And there's no way that you're going to have any kind of taxation that could possibly solve that dilemma."

Ever-increasing out-of-pocket costs are placing more pressure on those with health insurance to be fiscally prudent in choosing their healthcare services. That will slowly prod consumers to lean on their providers to offer more information about the prices they are charging and the quality of care they are delivering, Marketwatch noted.

"We are very much at a place now where people are increasingly demanding, where people are increasingly expecting, and where people are increasingly supported in being much more in power to have greater control over their healthcare," Tuckson said.

Hospitals could wind up being hit hard by such changes. A healthcare market driven primarily by consumers could cut inpatient flow by as much as one-quarter in the near term and as much as 40 percent over the long haul, according to a recent report by Oliver Wyman.

However, many obstacles remain, according to Marketwatch. Consumers still actually do not know what is required to navigate the healthcare system and what tools are at their disposal. For example, price transparency tools are made available for 95 percent of health plans, but only 2 percent of enrollees actually use them, Change Healthcare CEO Doug Ghertner told Marketwatch. He believes as much as $184 billion is wasted every year due to lack of consumer awareness.

To learn more:
- read the Marketwatch article