Does the New Health Care Shape Up?

Plans that aim to make you more responsible for keeping costs down are coming. Are you ready?

"Defined contribution" health-care plans are all the buzz in managed care these days. Under this type of plan, your employer may set up a medical account for you and deposit a specific amount into it annually -- say $1,000. Once you've spent that money, you'll have to pick up a set amount, perhaps $500, before your benefits kick back in -- at which point you and your employer will split your medical costs. Under this plan, companies would continue to pick up the tab for catastrophic illnesses (see BW Special Report, 5/6/02, "The New Health Care").

The idea is to save money by encouraging employees to spend their $1,000 as wisely as possible. A big incentive would be that whatever of the $1,000 is left over annually remains in your account -- while a new $1,000 is added. If you want to spend a lot more for certain doctors or for brand-name drugs, that's up to you. After all, it's your money.

What's your reaction to this approach -- and do you think it will work? That's the issue this BusinessWeek Online Reader Survey explores. Please remember, as always, that this isn't a scientific poll, since anyone who wishes to can participate.