NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 20, 2006

The main criticism of consumer-driven health plans is that they only appeal to the young, healthy and wealthy -- and even consumers in those demographics are incapable of making sound health care decisions.  However, according to health and policy leaders gathered at the National Consumer-Driven Healthcare Summit held recently in Washington, D.C., there is plenty of anecdotal and research evidence to make a strong, positive case for CDHPs.

For example:

  • Research presented by Maureen Sullivan, a senior vice president with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) -- which represents about 40 percent of the health savings account (HSA) market -- shows a generally even age mix of CDH participants, versus participants in non-CDHP, traditional health plans.
  • Among workers age 25-54, enrollment in HSAs, CDHPs without an HSA and non-CDHPs all hovered between 24 percent to 27 percent.

Also, the incomes of CDHP enrollees is more varied than believed, affirmed Regina Herzlinger, a professor at Harvard's business school.  She noted the recent conversions of Whole Foods and Wendy's to HSA-driven CDHPs, saying, "These are cashiers and stockers, who don't have a lot of money to spend, but have [enrolled in HSAs]."

Research from Assurant presented at the summit shows that 62 percent of HSA purchasers are over age 40, and 42 percent earned less than $50,000 per year.

BCBS also finds that health status of HSA participants tracks with those in non-CDHPs as well, Sullivan said.

  • Some 36 percent of HSA enrollees described their health as very good, only slightly higher than the 31 percent of individuals in non-CDHPs.
  • In addition, those whose health status is described as poor have only 1 percent enrollment in HSAs and non-CDHPs.

Source: Kelley M. Butler, "Summit offers evidence to quiet CDHP critics," Employee Benefit News, November 2006.


Browse more articles on Health Issues