Lipstick on a pig

Towers Watson's findings on Consumer-Directed Health Plans published in Human Resource Executive Online come as no surprise to me.  The findings show, the online publication said, that these plans are no more effective than any others in driving down costs over time, despite the theory that if consumers had to pay for their care, they'd be more frugal.

Why is this a surprise? I've always hated the name of these plans -- talk about putting lipstick on a pig. These are high-deductible plans, period, and the gloss about consumers saving money because they make budget-conscious decisions on health care choices just isn't practical. Call these plans high-deductible plans. That's what they are. Maybe some employers kick in to help with deductible, maybe some don't. Maybe some do now, but won't in the future. 

Doctors and nurses spend years in specialized education, yet someone who drives a truck, or teaches high school students or processes paperwork in a bank is supposed to be able to make informed medical decisions in all their spare time. Somehow, they are supposed to know which tests to accept and reject, all in the interest of keeping costs down. That is a consumer driven health plan. Ridiculous. The idea defies common sense.    

Of course, people need to take care of their health. That is the real key to driving down costs. If companies can help employees do that, it's great.

But think about this -- productivity is up, despite layoffs. Why? Because people are working hard, insanely hard, making up for all the people who lost their jobs. No one has a lunch hour to walk on manicured company grounds. People who work on salary often put in more than eight hours on the job. When are they supposed to exercise, or shop for healthy foods, or cook? Are they supposed to stir the vegetable stew with a spoon in their teeth while they tap, tap, tap into their Blackberries?