People enrolled in consumer-driven health plans are better educated, wealthier and healthier than those in other coverage options, according to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
And although these plans caught on first with small businesses, in 2013 their enrollees were more likely than those in traditional plans to work for employers with at least 500 workers, according to EBRI's annual survey on the issue (PDF).
It's estimated that 26 million people with private insurance, or 15% of the market, have some form of consumer-driven health plan. Enrollees pay at least $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs before a plan takes over to cover additional medical expenses. The plans are typically paired with some pre-tax savings account to help pay for their out-of-pocket costs.
The study suggests that people in these plans are generally healthier because more of them avoid tobacco, eat healthy and get regular exercise.
But the survey results shed no light no whether giving consumers incentives to make better choices had anything to do with these attributes. “It cannot be determined from the survey whether plan design had an impact on health status, smoking, exercise, or obesity rates, or whether those attributes influenced plan choice,” the authors note in the conclusion.
Enrollees in consumer-driven plans are also more likely to be in households with more than $100,000 in income and less likely to be in ones with incomes under $30,000. They are twice as likely to have college or post-graduate educations.
Researchers based their findings on surveys conducted annually since 2005. The latest EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey was delivered to 2,000 randomly selected adults with health insurance in August 2013. The response rate was 37%.
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