-- Randy Dotinga
WEDNESDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Poor people and those
with chronic health problems are no more likely than others to cut
back on health care when they're enrolled in high-deductible health
plans, according to a new study.
Conducted by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit policy research
organization, the study contradicts earlier studies, which found
that so-called "medically vulnerable" people were more likely to
slash their spending while they were on the plans.
High-deductible plans are health insurance policies that require
the person who's insured to pay for most medical care out-of-pocket
before coverage kicks in after a certain dollar amount has been
spent each year. About 20 percent of Americans with
employer-sponsored health insurance had a high-deductible plan in
2009, according to the researchers.
Such plans have become increasingly popular as a way to help
control health costs, and the RAND researchers said that many of
the insurance exchanges being established as part of the
health-reform law to help the uninsured find coverage will offer
The new study examined the experiences of more than 360,000
families who enrolled in high-deductible health plans offered by
their employers from 2003 to 2007. Participants lived in low-income
areas and included those with a family member who had heart
disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease,
which the researchers said are the five most costly chronic
Spending on health care fell among all families in the
high-deductible plans, compared with those enrolled in traditional
insurance plans, but the spending drop among medically vulnerable
families was no different from that of other families, the study
However, the researchers noted that the medically vulnerable
families all had a family member who worked full-time and had
benefits, which may have affected the results.
The findings are reported online in the journal
Forum for Health Economics & Policy.
"One important issue is whether high-deductible health plans will leave low-income and chronically ill patients with inadequate access to health care," Amelia Haviland, lead author of the study and a statistician at RAND, said in a news release from the organization. "We did not find greater cutbacks for medically vulnerable families," she noted.
"The evidence suggests that non-vulnerable families, low-income families and high-risk families are equally affected under high-deductible plans," Haviland said.
The U.S. Department of Labor has information on
making health benefits work for you.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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