Bioethics Blogs

The Hazards of High Deductibles

Here is a nice, cautionary article from Consumer Reports reporter, Donna Rosato, on the downsides of high deductible health insurance plans:

High deductible health insurance plans were supposed to help consumers cut healthcare costs. The idea was that since consumers would have to pay a large chunk of their own money for medical care before insurance kicks in, they would shop around to get the best prices.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. According to a research paper published earlier in February in JAMA Internal Medicine, people in high deductible health insurance plans are no more likely than those with traditional health insurance to look for more affordable care.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University and University of Southern California, surveyed 2,000 people. About half had high deductibles—more than $1,250 for an individual and $2,500 for a family. While the majority of people surveyed said they were worried about costs, just 4 percent of those in high deductible health insurance plans said they compared prices the last time they had medical treatment, versus just slightly more than the 3 percent of those in plans with low deductibles. Not a big difference.

“Simply increasing a deductible, which gives enrollees skin in the game, appears insufficient to facilitate price shopping,” the study concludes.

Even more worrisome is research that shows that some workers with high deductible health insurance plans aren’t getting the care they need. According a National Bureau of Economic Research paper published in October 2014, researchers tracked workers at one company that moved all its workers from a plan with no deductible to one with a family deductible of $3,000 to $4,000.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.