High-Deductible Plans May Impede Care
Studies Show Patients Skip Doctor Visits and Medications
Controlling Health Care Costs continued...
"People were responding to the financial incentives, but it doesn't look
like they were making cost-effective decisions," Greene, an assistant
professor of health policy at the University of Oregon, tells WebMD.
Greene says consumer-directed plans are supposed to encourage patients to
seek out information on managing their symptoms so they can decide when they
need to go to the doctor or buy other services.
But one of the studies shows that while patients in lower-deductible
consumer-directed plans are more likely to look up health information on the
Internet or in plan booklets, patients using high-deductible plans may in fact
be less likely to seek out information.
"The information piece was supposed to make the difference, and to date
the information piece is not changing people's responses," she says.
The researchers urge newer plans to exempt preventive care and medications
for chronic diseases from plan deductibles. That would help prevent patients
from shying away from care as a way to cut costs.
Greene also says moves by some newer plans to educate policy holders about
health information when they sign up for coverage "shows promise."
That's instead of patients waiting until they're "in crisis" with their
health to scramble for information, she says.
Balancing Care with Waste
Advocates see that as a key way to control health costs: Consumers spending
their own money are less likely to get wasteful care or unnecessary tests that
drive up costs. And as consumers get more savvy, the idea is that the health
care industry will become more competitive, also lowering costs. The lower
premiums can also give more people the opportunity to get some coverage even if
they can’t afford full-premium insurance.