Year after year, in survey after survey, executives have identified the rising cost of healthcare in the U.S. as one of their principal economic concerns. While federal and state governments could definitely do more to ease that corporate burden, companies must look closer to home for alternatives, particularly among the various forms of consumer-directed healthcare, which give patients both greater control over their care and a stake in managing costs through such strategies as the blend of a high-deductible health plan and a Health Savings Account (HSA). The hope is that consumerism can rein in medical costs while ensuring continued health coverage for workers, but its promise has not been fully realized. Consumerism has made only limited inroads. The Center for Studying Health System Change found that only one in five workers with a choice of health plans selects a consumer-driven plan.

If healthcare consumerism is to succeed, it needs to be more widely accepted, especially since it still faces opposition from special interests. Employers, however, can take three steps to support consumerism, both in their own companies and nationally.

First, businesses need to educate employees about the benefits. Workers with traditional health insurance plans need to understand how consumerism can help control their own costs and, while they may involve more up-front costs, consumer-directed plans are preferable to potentially having limited or even no insurance coverage.

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