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Futurists predict rise of consumer-directed health insurance plans

By Maryalene LaPonsie on February 2nd, 2012

Health insurance coverage may look very different in 2025, according to the Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF). The futurist think tank worked with 50 national health care leaders to review current trends in technology, politics and the economy and develop a vision for the future.

The result is four scenarios that suggest different futures that may include greater participation in consumer-directed health insurance, a shortage of primary care physicians or near universal medical insurance.

4 scenarios for the future of health care

The IAF named four possible scenarios. They are:

  1. "Many Needs, Many Models": This scenario largely continues the current health care system. Health insurance plans will shift from employers to government exchanges while electronic medical recordkeeping will increase. This scenario also foresees a shortage of primary care physicians and a growing disparity in the levels of care between populations of people.
  2. "Lost Decade, Lost Health": This scenario envisions a shortage of primary care physicians amid cuts in health care spending. The result will be an increase in uninsured patients turning to the black market and online sources for medical care and advice.
  3. "Primary Care that Works for All": This scenario assumes near universal health insurance coverage. Integrated systems will be used by 85 percent of patients and provide access to teams of health care providers. In addition, these primary care teams will act as conduits to other resources, such as employment and education, that are shown to correlate to better health.
  4. "I Am My Own Medical Home": The final scenario envisions a future in which 40 percent of patients select consumer-directed health insurance plans. Since these plans feature high deductibles, consumers will shop for doctors who offer high quality care for a low price. Consumers will also seek out health coaching, and wellness and disease management apps.

"The four scenarios provide the means to bound the uncertainty of the future," says Clem Bezold, chairman of IAF, in a statement. "They include our best estimates."

IAF published the scenarios as part of the report "Primary Care 2025," which is intended to help health care professionals and government policymakers consider the future and develop strategies appropriately.

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