Thursday, November 30, 2006

Consumer-directed health plans: early reviews mixed

WaPo has an article about a study of people enrolled in so-called consumer-directed health plans. Basically, we're talking about people who are enrolled in high-deductible, low-premium health insurance plans and who pay their share of health costs with pre-tax money from health savings accounts.

According to the study, these folks are indeed paying more attention to their cost of care, just as advocates for such plans predicted. On the other hand, they tend to be healthier, whiter, and richer than those who in traditional plans, just as critics predicted. Bottom line: half of those in consumer-directed plans would switch to a traditional plan if they could; about a third of those in traditional plans say they would switch to consumer-directed plans. Snip:
In contrast with other plans that typically require $15 or $20 co-payments for visits to the doctor, the new plans can require consumers to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars of their own money for medications, physicians' services and hospital care before most coverage kicks in. The plans have high annual deductibles, but their premiums tend to be lower.
"It's a cultural shift," said Devon Herrick, a health economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. "When you go to Wal-Mart you don't have to ask about price -- it's right there next to the good or service you are buying. Health care is not there yet, but it's getting that way. This is the early stages. We have the incentives to get people more responsible and asking about price."


No comments: