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For Some, More Costly Care Is Not by Choice
Date:4/2/2009

Study finds poorer, less healthy families are sometimes shunted to high-deductible plans,,

THURSDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Many low-income American families with sick children are being enrolled in high-deductible health-care plans, a new study has found.

In 2007, about 10 percent of employers offered high-deductible plans, and about 14.8 million adults were enrolled in the plans. But as more families with sick children are enrolled in these plans, there are concerns that families facing high out-of-pocket costs might fail to get recommended care for their children, according to background information in a news release on the study from Children's Hospital Boston.

About half of the people enrolled in high-deductible plans in 2007 did not have a choice of plans, according to a national survey that year.

In this study, researchers analyzed enrollment and claims data from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in New England. They identified 839 families with children who initially had traditional HMO (health maintenance organization) plans through Harvard Pilgrim but whose employers switched them to a high-deductible health plan when Harvard Pilgrim began offering it. The researchers compared these families with 5,133 families whose employers stayed with the traditional plan.

About one-third of the families who were switched to a high-deductible plan had a child with a chronic condition, 13 percent lived in neighborhoods with high poverty, 36 percent had an above-average burden of illness, and 19 percent had incurred more than $7,000 a year in health-care costs, including out-of-pocket costs.

The study also found:

  • Among families who got their insurance through large employers, those living in high-poverty neighborhoods were 1.78 times more likely than families in higher-income areas to be switched to a high-deductible plan.
  • Families with coverage through a small employer we
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