Workers With HDHPs Spend Less on Health Care—Is That a Good Thing?

Workers With HDHPs Spend Less on Health Care—Is That a Good Thing?

High-deductible health plans have become an increasingly popular means for employers to keep health care costs under control. According to data released last summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 through 2017, the percentage of adults 18-64 with employer-provided health insurance who were enrolled in an HDHP with a health savings account increased from 4.2 percent to 18.9 percent, while the percentage enrolled in an HDHP without an HSA rose from 10.6 percent to 24.5 percent.

Over the past three years, however, our benefits research at Gartner shows that their popularity has been leveling off, as deductibles for individual plans have actually been trending downward. (Gartner Total Rewards Leadership Council clients can view our full report on medical plan trends and observations for 2018 here.) This trend suggests that employers are having second thoughts about whether the benefits of HDHPs outweigh the downsides.

A new survey published last month by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and research firm Greenwald & Associates provides some insight into these pros and cons. The survey found that people enrolled in HDHPs were more likely to compare cost and quality when selecting non-emergency health care and to make cost-conscious decisions like choosing generic prescription drugs over brand names. HDHP enrollees also more likely to be offered and to participate in wellness programs through their employers, including programs that involve biometric screenings.

On the other hand, this cost-conscious behavior may not be entirely voluntary: 30 percent of HDHP enrollees said they delayed care in the previous year because of costs, compared to 18 percent of respondents covered by traditional health insurance plans. While the EBRI study does not clarify whether this care was essential or non-essential, another recent study of diabetics found that switching to a high-deductible plan increased their likelihood of delaying essential care.

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Trump’s Choice for HHS May Signal Big Changes to Health Care Law

Trump’s Choice for HHS May Signal Big Changes to Health Care Law

US president-elect Donald Trump has sent mixed signals on his plans for health care policy, campaigning on a pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, then indicating after the election that he would try to retain the law’s most popular features, such as the provision barring insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

On Tuesday, Trump’s transition team announced that he had picked Georgia Representative Tom Price as his secretary of of health and human services. As the New York Times reports, Price has been an outspoken critic of the ACA and the author of legislation proposing an alternative to outgoing President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement:

The legislation Mr. Price has proposed, the Empowering Patients First Act, would repeal the Affordable Care Act and offer age-adjusted tax credits for the purchase of individual and family health insurance policies.

The bill would create incentives for people to contribute to health savings accounts; offer grants to states to subsidize insurance for “high-risk populations”; allow insurers licensed in one state to sell policies to residents of others; and authorize business and professional groups to provide coverage to members through “association health plans.”

This selection suggests that Trump is serious about working to dismantle the ACA and pursue the Republican party’s alternative vision of health care reform instead, but it’s still not clear what that alternative will end up looking like, or what this might mean for employers, benefits experts tell Kathryn Mayer at Employee Benefit News:

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