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

ce of a few plans and employers.

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 RAND study found that overall, health costs grew for people enrolled in both high-deductible and traditional plans. However, they grew more slowly in the high-deductible group. Among those with high-deductible health plans, spending was lower on both inpatient and outpatient medical services, as well as prescription drugs. Spending for emergency care did not differ.

Researchers found that individual deductibles must be rather high to achieve meaningful cost savings. Cost growth for families covered in plans with moderate deductibles -- from $500 to $999 per person -- did not differ significantly from those in traditional plans. Cost savings only became significant when deductibles reached $1,000 per person.

But as families reduced their medical spending, they eliminated some care that is clearly beneficial, researchers observed. While childhood vaccination rates increased among families in traditional health plans, they fell among families in high-deductible health plans. Rates of mammography, cervical cancer screening, colorectal cancer screening and routine blood tests among those with diabetes also fell among those with high-deductible health plans.

"We saw that patients reduced preventive care, and if this persists, it is likely to have health consequences in the future," Havil
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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