Patients are increasingly presented with a bewildering array of options to pay for health care. In response, health plans are offering online tools to help patients estimate health expenses under different benefit plans. Now, employers are joining them.
ADP Inc, known for processing payrolls and providing related employer services, announced plans Tuesday to offer online decision-support tools straight to its clients’ employees. ADP will team up with Subimo LLC to offer an online cost modeling tool. The tool will be integrated with ADP’s ESS (employee self service) application to help employees evaluate health care plan costs based on individual medical needs.
The tool takes into account a person’s age, gender, geographic region and health condition to estimate a range of a family’s health costs under each health plan available. Subimo spokesperson John Hallock said the tool would predict what health services an individual or family would be most likely to need by using predictive modeling based on data from some 60 million U.S. patients.
“This kind of information was traditionally only available to managed care professionals,” said Hallock. Employees can use the information to pick plans and to decide how to fund a flexible spending account, HSA (health savings account) or HRA (health reimbursement arrangement).
A number of pilot ADP clients will be using the cost modeling tool for their annual enrollment this fall, with all clients having access to the new tool for the fall 2006 enrollment period.
Andrew Childs, vice president of marketing for ADP Benefit Services, said the Subimo tool would be part of standard service for new clients and that existing clients could add the service for a small fee. It is currently being offered to about 175 companies with a total of about a million employees. “We had a lot of requests for additional tools to help employees make better health coverage choices,” he said. “So far, everyone that we’ve offered it to has taken us up on it.”
Childs said that employees are used to registering for health benefits and 401K plans online, making the tool “a natural extension” of existing services. ADP began offering Web services in 1996; now, he said, 95 percent of enrollment transactions are over the Web.
Last week, Subimo announced a partnership with large health plan company Wellpoint to offer similar tools to its nearly 30 million members. Harvard Pilgrim and Oxford Health offer similar services, said Hallock. Subimo estimates that some 60 million Americans now have access to its decision support tools through their insurance company or employer.
With health plans, Subimo’s tools can compare actual costs of procedures as well as quality of care at local hospitals. They can also compare the costs of different regimens of prescription drugs.
Another service, MyHealthcareAdvisor.com is geared to small businesses that want to augment their coverage. It allows employees to research hospitals and procedures.
Hallock said it’s not surprising that both employers and managed care organizations are looking to provide sophisticated tools to patients. “It’s a mutual interest,” he said, “It’s a movement to increase quality of care and in turn contain costs.”
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