NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

HIGH-DEDUCTIBLE PLANS: LEAD TO FEWER HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS

July 14, 2006

Employees enrolled in high-deductible health plans are less likely to visit the emergency department and have fewer hospital admissions than those enrolled in traditional plans, according to a study by UnitedHealth Group.

The study, one of the largest conducted on high-deductible health plans, tracked 55,000 employees from 2003 to 2005.  According to researchers:

  • Employees enrolled in high-deductible health plans are more likely to visit primary care physicians for no-cost preventive examinations on a regular basis than those in traditional plans. 
  • Also, the cost to employers for employees enrolled in high-deductible health plans decreased by 3 percent to 5 percent between 2003 and 2005 and that the cost to employers for employees enrolled in traditional plans increased by 8 percent to 10 percent over the same period. 
  • In addition, among employees enrolled in high-deductible health plans who had health savings accounts opened in early 2005, the average balance was $1,112.
  • About 60 percent of employers contributed to employee HSAs, with the amount equal to 40 percent of the annual deductible in most cases.

Mike Tarino, CEO of the UnitedHealth Definity division, says that the study indicates that employees "can make wiser, more financially sound decisions about their health care." 

Jeff Azen, a partner and consultant for the employee benefits practice at the Stanton Group, says, "I think this shows that, as soon as a consumer has some skin in the game, they are likely to make good decisions ... based on the impact to their wallet."

Source: "Three-Year Study Shows Consumer-Driven Health Plans Continue to Stimulate Positive Changes in Consumer Health Behavior," UnitedHealth Group, July 12, 2006.

 

Browse more articles on Health Issues