Employers, insurers reward consumers who shop for lower healthcare prices

As healthcare costs continue to rise, both insurers and employers are turning to initiatives that reward consumers for shopping for the best prices on healthcare procedures and services.

One such employer-driven initiative is SmartShopper, a health incentives and engagement program that provides cash incentives to employees for choosing lower-priced healthcare options, according to the Associated Press. Vitals, which provides the incentives service, tells the news service that SmartShopper served more than 16,000 patients last year and garnered $10.7 million in savings.

With the SmartShopper program, patients can earn an average of a few hundred dollars each year, and the incentive size depends on the service or care that is performed and the difference in cost compared to other options, the AP notes. For example, a blood test may earn a $25 reward for a worker picking a lower-cost provider, and someone getting bariatric surgery, which can cost more than $20,000, could get a $500 check.

Plans like SmartShopper are becoming more and more popular with both employers and employees; employers look to cut costs before the Cadillac tax takes effect in 2018, and because wages have been somewhat stagnant for the past decade, employees like the idea of getting cash back, according to the article.

In a similar fashion, Michigan-based insurer Priority Health recently launched an incentive program that rewards customers with Visa gift cards ranging from $50 to $200 for using the company's cost-estimator tool to choose a fair-priced medical procedure. "We want to make sure that consumers can know as much about healthcare as they can about everything else," Joan Budden, the company's chief marketing officer, previously told FierceHealthPayer.

Price transparency continues to be a hot topic as insurers look for ways to engage with members to lower costs. To that end, America's Health Insurance Plans offers a guide for insurers that want to improve the price transparency tools they offer members.

To learn more:
- check out the AP article

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