February 28, 2024

Bucks Blog: Will High-Deductible Health Insurance Plans Become the Norm?

As the cost of health insurance continues to rise, workers can expect to see high-deductible plans, with ever-higher deductibles, becoming the norm, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation predicts.

“It’s the biggest tool in the toolbox that employers have to hold costs down,” said Drew Altman, president and chief executive of the foundation, in a telephone call today with reporters.

Mr. Altman made the remarks while discussing the findings of the annual Employer Health Benefits Survey conducted by the foundation and the Health Research Educational Trust. The study is based on a telephone survey of 2,088 randomly selected public and private employers with three or more workers, conducted between January and May of this year. The study found that the average cost of work-based family health coverage rose by 9 percent this year, after several years of more modest increases.

The survey reported that the number of employees covered by high-deductible health plans, and the number of companies offering the plans, jumped this year, “as employers seek more affordable coverage options and are potentially seeking to shift increased costs to workers.”

This year, 17 percent of covered workers were enrolled in such plans, compared with 13 percent last year and just 8 percent in 2009. And 23 percent of firms offering health benefits offer them, up from 15 percent last year. The plans, which typically are paired with health savings or reimbursement accounts, generally carry lower premiums for workers, but have higher annual deductibles than other plans. Plans that can be used with health savings accounts, for instance, must have a deductible of least $1,200 for an individual and $2,400 for a family.

Mr. Altman described the shift to high-deductible plans as a “quiet revolution” that was redefining employer-based health insurance in the United States, from a service that offered wide-ranging, comprehensive coverage to one that offered limited coverage: “The nature of what we call health insurance is changing, without a great deal of analysis or debate.”

The idea behind the high-deductible plans is to have consumers pay closer attention to costs when they seek health care. But, as one reporter on the conference call noted, it remains difficult for patients to get reliable up-front information about the pricing of health procedures.

Have you enrolled in a high-deductible health plan? Has it made you more cost-conscious when you seek treatment?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c8d56c15d02962e971195173758e171a

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