The Los Angeles Times has an important story by Duke Helfand on the rise of high-deductible health plans, and the risk that come with them.
It focuses on a new report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, which reveals the increased costs–and delayed care–that patients experience under such coverage. Check out the study at their website. From their release:
These health plans, which can impose deductibles of more than $5,000, may cause members to delay care and can put families in financial jeopardy should a health crisis arise, note the authors of the report, Profiling California’s Health Plan Enrollees: Findings from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Yet high-deductible plans are often the only insurance many Americans – especially the self-employed or those with low-incomes – can afford.
The report, which profiles California’s nearly 32 million insured residents, found that a total of 3 million commercially insured Californians were enrolled in high-deductible plans in 2007. Enrollment in high-deductible health plans is particularly high among members of preferred provider organizations (PPOs) – 28 percent of all commercial PPO members reported having a deductible higher than $1,000. Among commercial health maintenance organization (HMO) plan members, 14 percent reported having such plans.
High deductible plans, defined by the California Health Interview Survey as plans that have out-of-pocket deductibles of $1,000 or more for individuals or $2,000 or more for families, can exceed $5,000 annually.
“Many Californians can’t afford higher-premium plans, especially in the current economic climate,” said the report’s lead author, Dylan Roby, a Center research scientist. “But the alternative – high-deductible plans – may cost less initially, but can cost thousands of dollars when you need health care. When that much money is on the line, a health emergency can also become a financial emergency.”