NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 12, 2004

An independent study of auto crash victims by MIT Business School finds that high-deductible health plans improve outcomes for acute care in the uninsured population.

The author of the study, Joseph Doyle, an assistant professor of applied economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, examined all the severe automobile accidents in Wisconsin over a five-year period.

The researchers found:

  • The uninsured receive about 80 percent of the care received by the insured.
  • The uninsured have about a 37 percent higher mortality rate than the insured; the mortality rate for all victims of serious car crashes was 3.8 percent, rising to 5.2 percent for the uninsured.
  • Uninsured patients were less likely to receive an operation on the nervous system, such as a craniotomy: 34 percent of the insured patients received such surgeries, compared with 25 percent of the uninsured.

The lack of health insurance appeared to have a significant effect on treatment decisions across a wide range of health problems, say the researchers. If these estimates are applied to the nation as a whole, they indicate about 2,000 lives a year are lost because of lack of treatment for uninsured people involved in auto accidents, says Doyle.

Health care reform proposals that focus on catastrophic care could go a long way toward closing this health outcome gap, while also relieving emergency rooms and other health care providers of an enormous financial burden, says Doyle.

Catastrophic insurance premiums, with a high deductible, are relatively inexpensive compared with more comprehensive plans. Coupling them with health savings accounts to cover the costs of preventative care could give real substance to the political goal of restraining spiraling health care expenses as patients begin to consider the costs of care, he says.

Source: Joseph Doyle, "A Way to Help on Health Insurance," Washington Post, October 29, 2004.


Browse more articles on Health Issues