High-deductible healthcare plans reduce both the cost and usage of healthcare services, even that of desirable services like screening for cancer. Research at the Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis conducted the first systematic review of studies examining the relationship between high-deductible healthcare plans and the use of healthcare services. It was found these plans reduce both the cost and the use of healthcare services. Those reductions are the result of a decrease in patient use of many types of medical services, including desirable services like preventive care or cancer screenings, said Nir Menachemi, a professor of health policy and management and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, who is one of the authors of the paper.
‘Patients avoid preventive care like cancer screening due to high-deductible healthcare plans.’"For high-deductible health plans to work in the ideal, patients need to be educated on the fact that preventive care does not usually incur out-of-pocket costs in these types of plans," Menachemi said. "Traditional insurance plans shield patients from all of the financial decisions that are made. The fact that you are shielded financially from healthcare decisions makes you potentially more likely to over-consume services, which raises the average of care for everyone and increases premiums for everyone."
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The review identified the most rigorous methodological studies previously published and ultimately summarized findings across 28 articles. The review found that high-deductible health plans were associated with a significant reduction in preventive care in seven of 12 studies and a significant reduction in office visits in six of 11 studies -- which in turn led to a reduction in both appropriate and inappropriate care.
High-deductible health plans have lower premiums but higher deductibles compared to traditional insurance plans. Many policymakers view high-deductible health plans as a way to curb healthcare costs by providing patients with incentives to make more cost-conscious healthcare decisions.
The review highlights the decline in use of preventive healthcare services under high-deductible plans, which another study has shown occurs when patients change their healthcare behavior and forgo needed care to save money.
However, few if any high-deductible health plans charge members for preventive screenings, suggesting patients didn't understand they could use these services at no cost, Menachemi said.
The complete research is published in the journal Health Affairs.