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Largest study of high-deductible health plans finds savings, less preventive care
Date:3/24/2011

The largest-ever assessment of high-deductible health plans finds that while such plans significantly cut health spending, they also prompt patients to cut back on preventive health care, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The findings are published in the March edition of the American Journal of Managed Care.

Studying more than 800,000 families from across the United States, researchers found that when people shifted into health insurance plans with deductibles of at least $1,000 per person, their health spending dropped an average of 14 percent when compared to families in health plans with lower deductibles.

Health care spending also was lower among families enrolled in high-deductible plans that had moderate health savings accounts sponsored by employers. But when employer contributions to such savings accounts accounted for more than half of an individual's deductible, savings decreased among families enrolled in these so-called consumer-directed health plans.

However, over the same period, families that shifted to high-deductible plans significantly cut back on preventive health care such as childhood immunizations, cancer screenings and routine tests for diabetes.

"We discovered that costs go down dramatically during the first year people are enrolled in high-deductible health plans, as long as the deductible is at least $1,000 per person," said Amelia M. Haviland, a study co-author and a statistician at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "But we also found concerning reductions in use of preventive care. This suggests people are cutting both necessary and unnecessary care."

Researchers examined the experiences of families insured during 2004 and 2005 through one of 53 large employers, with about half of the employers offering a high-deductible or consumer-directed health plan. Previous studies have tracked the impact of high deductibles, but the evidence has been limited to the experien
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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