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High-deductible health plans pose no special risks to the medically vulnerable, study finds
Date:4/18/2011

People who are medically vulnerable -- those with low incomes or chronic health problems -- who enroll in high-deductible health plans are at no more risk for cutting back on needed health care than other people who enroll in the plans, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The findings, from the largest national study to examine the affects of high-deductible health plans, contradicts some of the earlier small studies that found medically vulnerable individuals cut back more than other people enrolled in the health plans.

The project examined the first-year experiences of more than 360,000 families nationwide who enrolled in high-deductible health plans offered by their employers from 2003 to 2007. The study, conducted with consulting firm Towers Watson, was published online by the journal Forum for Health Economics & Policy.

"One important issue is whether high-deductible health plans will leave low-income and chronically ill patients with inadequate access to health care," said Amelia Haviland, lead author of the study and a statistician at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "We did not find greater cut backs for medically vulnerable families. The evidence suggests that non-vulnerable families, low-income families and high-risk families are equally affected under high-deductible plans."

High-deductible and consumer-directed health plans have been gaining favor as one way to help control health care costs. By 2009, about 20 percent of Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage were enrolled in such plans. A 2010 survey found that more than 54 percent of large employers offered at least one high-deductible health plan to their employees.

Health care reform is expected to further encourage enrollment in high-deductible health plans as such plans are expected to be a key offering in the insurance exchanges being set up in many states to help the uninsured find health coverage.

The R
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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