Consumer-driven health plans, often touted as an answer to soaring healthcare costs, are not likely to curb total spending and could backfire, resulting in higher healthcare costs in the long term, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund. Such plans generally consist of a healthcare reimbursement account paired with high-deductible insurance and are designed to reduce spending on unnecessary care. But the report concluded that such plans also discourage patients from seeking needed preventive care and treatment for chronic conditions, potentially leading to more serious and costly ailments down the road. The report also said that healthier and wealthier individuals were more likely to enroll in consumer-driven plans, potentially fragmenting the market by leaving sicker and lower-wage workers to higher-cost HMOs and PPOs.
While re-enrollment in consumer-driven plans is usually as high as 90%, only 30% of enrollees say they would unequivocally recommend the plans to others, according to the study. About 1 million Americans, less than 1% of the 160 million Americans with employer-based insurance, are currently enrolled in consumer-driven plans. But the model got a boost last December when President Bush signed the Medicare Modernization Act, which allows for the creation of Health Savings Accounts. Obtain the article or issue brief. -- by Laura B. Benko