New Study Finds that Increasing Out-of-Pocket Costs Forces Patients to Skip Preventive Care

A new study from the RAND Corporation has found that customers enrolled in skimpy health care plans with high deductibles will forego cost effective preventive care.

Conservatives often point to high-deductible “consumer driven” health care plans as the basis of their vision for health care in this country. They believe that giving consumers more “skin in the game” will keep health care costs low by forcing consumers cut down on their medical visits and comparison shop between doctors for the best price. A new study from the RAND Corporation has found that families in these high deductible plans did see lower costs but at the expense of valuable preventive care services.

As we’ve pointed out before on this blog, families that avoid immunization shots and cancer screenings may see short term savings, but over the long term they’re likely to get hit with higher costs as illnesses are caught too late.

"We saw that patients reduced preventive care, and if this persists, it is likely to have health consequences in the future," Amelia M. Haviland, a study co-author and a statistician at RAND commented. "These cutbacks could cause a spike in health care costs down the road if people end up sicker and need more-intensive treatment."

The study also found that deductibles needed to be very high before any meaningful cost savings were achieved. Families that paid between $500 and $999 in deductibles did not see big savings. It wasn’t until plans required upwards of $1,000 that health care costs were reduced noticeably.

Many employers have begun shifting their employees to high deductible plans as a way to save money. According to the Kaiser Foundation, 13% of workers are enrolled in a health care plan with a deductible of more than $1,000 per person in 2010, which is up from 4% in 2006. But a study we wrote about earlier on this blog suggests that the savings for employers may be illusory. High out-of-pocket costs for drugs were shown to increase costs for employers over time. When workers stop taking their medication to save money they end up needing more medical care that could have been avoided through better management of their condition.


-- Kaiser Health News / CWA News / RAND / Kaiser Foundation /CWA News