The few Americans enrolled in so-called consumer-driven health plans are less satisfied with their coverage than those enrolled in more traditional plans, according to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Commonwealth Fund.
Americans in consumer-driven plans also are more likely to avoid or delay needed care, according to the survey. The results confirmed previous surveys that attempted to predict consumer satisfaction with the consumer-driven plans (Sept. 26, p. 18).
The survey also noted that individuals enrolled in consumer-driven health plans are more likely to be burdened by the cost of care than those in more traditional plans--a sign that those alternative plans could create a "barrier to those with low incomes," said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund.
Overall, 33% of individuals enrolled in high-deductible health plans and 42% in consumer-driven plans said they were "extremely" or "very satisfied" with their coverage. That's compared with 63% of individuals with more traditional insurance. The national sample survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive in September and October, focused on privately insured adults ages 21 to 64.
The survey showed that only 1% of respondents were enrolled in a consumer-driven health plan. In comparison, 9% of respondents were enrolled in high-deductible plans, and 89% were enrolled in comprehensive plans.
Still relatively new to the marketplace, consumer-driven health plans--in which individuals pay a high deductible as a way to offset higher premiums that employers pay for comprehensive plans--have been championed by businesses, private payers and President Bush as a way to give an individual more control over his or her health decisions.
Some said that the move to consumer-driven plans is working as advertised. The study revealed that individuals in the consumer-directed and high-deductible plans are more cost-conscious, as intended. Robert Crane, director of the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy, said that as consumer-driven models move forward, employers need to "look for a sweet spot" where plans both encourage cost-conscious behavior, but don't mortgage future healthcare costs by causing care to be delayed.
John Greene, senior director of federal affairs at the National Association of Health Underwriters, said he's skeptical of the report and that he would rather have seen more income analysis.