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High Deductibles Drive Low Use

High deductible health plans that people receive from their employers are causing people to delay seeing the doctor when they need to do so. Oftentimes, high deductibles require them to pay more for their healthcare before they can begin to use their health benefits, and before the insurance company begins to pay a portion of the bills. Medical professionals have begun to notice that fewer procedures are being performed, and people are not taking as many medications as they have in the past. 

Do High Deductibles Cause People to Shy Away from the Doctor?

The interpretation could be that healthcare costs are lower, but this is only because people are not using the healthcare system as often. The real concern is that healthcare costs will actually rise as a result, because preventative care is being neglected. When some conditions are caught early (types of cancer for instance) they can be treated less aggressively and for a lower price. If people avoid visits to the doctor for long periods of time until the condition becomes very serious, they lose the ability to treat their diseases in a more cost-effective manner. 

High Deductible Plans Actually Lower Healthcare Costs

The increase in high deductible health plans actually corresponds with the time when healthcare costs have been leveling off. This trend began in 2002, when the employer-offered high deductible plans began to become popular in the country. Between the years of 2006 and 2011, employee enrollment in these high deductible plans increased tremendously. In 2006, three percent of eligible workers had high deductible plans. In 2011, those with high deductible plans had risen to as high as 13 percent. 

The Important Role of the Health Savings Account (HSA) 

What has been found is that high deductible plans do not necessarily mean that people will not use health services. An important feature of high deductible plans is that they are associated with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). People can deposit money into HSAs that will only be used for health-related expenses, and they also have tax advantages. They can use this money to pay for any medical services before they reach their deductibles, including office visits and laboratory services. 

High Deductible Plans Encourage Intelligent Spending 

When people are in charge of their own HSAs, they tend to use their healthcare in a more intelligent manner. Since they will need to be more aware of what they are spending their healthcare dollars on, they are more proactive about where they go to receive their healthcare. If one lab charges much less for its services than another, the patient is free to choose the one that will cost less. This has been a major contributor in the reason that healthcare costs have gone down over the years. 

High Deductibles and HSAs Lower the Cost of Healthcare

People with high deductibles and HSAs have fewer procedures because they are ensuring that there is no overlap in the types of medical services they are receiving. According to Rand Corporation, when people enroll in high deductible plans with HSAs, they reduce the use of medical services by 14 percent. More importantly, they also found that these peoples’ health did not suffer for it at all. 

The Rand Corporation has concluded that increasing the numbers of people enrolled in high deductible plans with HSAs would have the effect of lowering healthcare costs even further, rather than raising them. Those who have greater control over their healthcare choices can take more time determining the medical services they need for the best price. 

 

Byline

This article was written by Karl Stockton for the team at medical billing and coding salary.

© 2012, Jen Carrigan. All rights reserved.

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