June 17, 2015
It was the creation of Health Savings Account (HSA) in 2003 that ushered in the rise of high deductible insurance plans. The HSA was created in order to help people pay for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Introduction of high deductible plans along with HSAs became quite popular in the US. With time, more employers started offering these plans to employees and by 2012, enrolment in high-deductible plans had tripled in the country.
Drawbacks with High-deductible Plans
Compared to other plans, healthcare expenses for patients with high-deductible plans also increased, but at a slower rate. Even today, a growing number of patients are opting for such plans in the US. However, industry experts have found some drawbacks associated with these plans.
According to them, patients who were saving money with a high-deductible plan were also seeing less of the physicians for necessary treatments such as immunizations, wellness check-ups and preventative check-ups. Some patients even went without preventative services when there was no deductible for them. Experts feel that if this trend continues, it will cause a spike in healthcare costs with people falling extremely ill and in need of intensive treatments.
They believe that choosing high-deductible plans due to difficulties in affording high monthly premiums will also lead to more hospitalizations since many patients may delay emergency treatments.
As per a 2013 study conducted in Massachusetts and published in Health Affairs, in two years after signing up for high-deductible plans, poor people visited emergency departments 25-30% less for severe health problems. For such groups, rate of hospitalization reduced by 23% in the first year but again increased in the second year.
According to the industry experts, it has become important to educate consumers on how to use their high-deductible plans and HSAs without compromising on their health. A certain level of patient engagement will be required which will also add up to medical expenses in the long run.
Are Physicians Bearing the Brunt of High-deductible Plans?
Popularity of high-deductible plans has forced physicians to improve their medical billing process and ensure successful patient engagement. Since rising out-of-pocket expenses continue to change the way patients use medical services, it has become necessary for physicians to up their game and ensure streamlined revenue cycle management in order to stay in business.
The fact that greater financial responsibility for medical services has been placed on patients has impacted physician practices to a great extent. Experts believe that the concern for doctors has shifted from ‘who has insurance’ to ‘what type of insurance’. In this changing landscape of the US healthcare industry, physicians will have to lure the cost conscious patients. They will have to deal with questions such as – Do I really need that blood test? Can’t my treatment go on without that MRI?