Responding to the growing national interest in consumer-driven health care products, an online medical marketplace began offering users a health savings account (HSA) tracker in November.
Doclopedia is an online tool that offers individuals the ability to organize their health information electronically and gain access to information about health services–including physician prices and availability–in their geographical area.
“When HSAs were approved, I was excited because I thought it was going to be a way for doctors and patients to get together and create a better health care delivery paradigm without the overhead of insurance,” said Dr. Dan Lieberman, chairman of Doclopedia, a company based in Phoenix, Arizona that maintains the database and online health care organizational tools.
“But nothing happened,” Lieberman continued. “Even a year after the law was signed [in 2003], there were almost no patients showing up to my office that were looking for better prices and trying to control their health care through the use of an HSA.
“When I starting looking into why we weren’t seeing a free market emerge now that the government was allowing it to occur, I found that it was because of a lack of information,” Lieberman said.
In 2003, HSAs became another way for people to pay their medical bills. An alternative to insurance-based health care, HSAs allow people to save for qualified future health expenses tax-free, as well as pay for current medical care. In order to open an HSA, consumers must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), also known as catastrophic health insurance.
HDHPs are exactly what their name indicates: Patients under these plans pay, often out of their health savings accounts, the first several thousand dollars of health care expenses–the deductible–and the plan covers costs over the deductible.
Consumers can use the money in HSAs only for health care expenses. This, Lieberman said, is what trips up many patients with HSAs, especially at tax time.
“Many people who have an HSA are unaware that they need to record the health care-related nature of their purchases,” Lieberman explained. “So we have a list of HSA-covered entities and items. Then we created the tracker to give people a way to encode why they bought something with their HSA funds.
“This goes beyond just having a receipt–which is important, especially when proving eligibility for a tax deduction,” Lieberman said.
Judi Moore owns a custom jewelry store in Scottsdale, Arizona and has been in business for 11 years. Moore offered her four employees the option of an HDHP and told them about Doclopedia and the HSA tracker. Three, including herself, now use it regularly.
“The response [to the HSA tracker] has been very positive,” Moore said. “It helps people take responsibility for their own health care. No longer do we have the luxury of depending on our ‘family’ doctor. We must be in control of our own health issues.
“I would highly recommend this program to any employer,” Moore continued. “An employee who understands and appreciates the intricacies of health care and cost issues will make better health care decisions.”
Doclopedia’s online database currently serves residents in Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix. Lieberman plans to expand the Web site’s physician and service information to include other cities across the United States over the next year.
The HSA tracker is free and available to all, regardless of geographic location.
Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.
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