Recent research on high deductible health plans (HDHP) shows an important, unexpected consequence of the low cost plans. Many people who have HDHPs aren’t using the insurance benefits.
An HDHP is a health insurance plan that has lower premiums than traditional insurance, but higher deductibles. Patients must cover their medical costs out-of-pocket until a certain limit — the deductible — is met. HDHP deductibles for individuals must be at least $1,300 but often average $2,295. Insurers created HDHPs not only to lower costs, but to encourage individuals to become better consumers of medical care, since they would have more “skin in the game” and be less likely to overconsume care.
Researchers at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis discovered a significant reduction in preventive care in seven of 12 studies and a significant reduction in office visits in six of 11 studies. Patients often were forgoing office visits, wellness visits and cancer screenings to save money.
The researchers recommend that employers and insurers provide HDHP plan holders more education about HDHPs and assure employees that preventive care does not cost extra when the HDHP plans meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum essential care requirements.