By Britt Johnsen, Trig

At a time when health care costs are wreaking havoc on companies’ bottom lines and individuals’ pocketbooks, many businesses are educating employees on the complexities of health care to save money, improve care and reduce waste and error.

According to a 2012 Institute of Medicine report, Americans spent a total of $2.5 trillion on health care in 2009. A staggering 30 percent of that cost ($765 billion) was spent on waste in the system.

Of course, waste isn’t the only health care issue costing Minnesotans money. Complex topics like new drugs and an aging population are driving costs at a record pace.

Luckily, Minnesotans have solutions to lower costs. One solution identified by HealthBasics research is to provide consumers with more information. Minnesotans want trustworthy, easy-to-understand information on their providers, doctors and care. It would also help to control costs; research shows that patient education can reduce health care costs by up to 20 percent.

Employers can help educate employees by providing training, articles and videos that teach people the tips and tricks that seem small but add up. Trig’s training, for example, stresses the importance of shopping around to make sure you have the right doctor and the right medication; getting a second or even third opinion to avoid costly misdiagnosis; and learning assertiveness to get the answers you deserve, as well as to be able to negotiate your bill.

Bloomington, Minn.-based manufacturer Aspen Equipment, which has been family owned since it started in 1926, has saved more than 20 percent on health care costs since signing on with Eden Prairie-based Trig in January 2014.

“Our claims ratio last year was amazing,” said Sharon Hengel, HR manager for Aspen Equipment. “Trig offered exactly what I was looking for to help employees maneuver through the healthcare system.”

On Nov. 17, Trig will join Minnesota HealthBasics at Northwestern Health Sciences University for a discussion on what the future of health care will look like in Minnesota. Join us to learn about the environment affecting health care decisions and HealthBasics’ extensive research into the knowledge, values and priorities Minnesotans bring to the health care discussion. Most importantly, add your voice to the conversation.

In advance of the conversation Tuesday, here are three things you can do to be a smarter health care consumer:

  1. Shop around — for anything. You can always ask for the price of anything in advance and then shop around, whether it’s a prescription or a procedure. You can also make sure that you’re seeing the right doctor for your situation.
  2. Get a second, or even third, opinion. All kinds of people have found benefits from getting more than one opinion on a diagnosis.
  3. Know your power. At any given time, you don’t have to be in situations that are less than desirable. If a bill is too high, you can negotiate it. If you feel confused or feel a gut-level knowing something is off, you have every right to ask questions and get more information.

For more information on Tuesday’s forum, visit www.nwhealth.edu/healthbasics.