Many Workers Choosing High-Deductible Health Insurance

A new study finds that more workers are choosing high-deductible plans over traditional plans. Find out who is doing so — and why it might not always be a good thing.

More than half of large employers in a new analysis now offer their workers high-deductible health insurance plans.

This finding from Benefitfocus, a provider of benefits-management software, highlights a national trend toward high-deductible plans, CNBC reports today.

Benefitfocus’ report also found that when an employer offers at least one high-deductible plan and at least one traditional plan, about 40 percent of workers opt for the high deductible. Younger workers were especially likely to choose the high deductible.

An insurance deductible refers to the amount of money that insured individuals must pay out of pocket for health care expenses before their insurance company starts contributing to those expenses. High-deductible plans tend to have lower monthly premium payments compared with traditional plans, however.

Still, Benefitfocus notes that high-deductible plans require enrollees to “take on much more financial risk” compared with traditional plans.

High-deductible plans are becoming an increasingly common offering by companies looking for ways to control health benefits costs, CNBC reports.

CBS MoneyWatch reported last week that deductibles for employer-sponsored health care plans have increased by 67 percent since 2010.

CBS explains that while higher deductibles hurt Americans’ pocketbooks, they aren’t designed to punish. The hope is that if consumers have to share more of their health care costs, they will become more careful about their health care spending by comparison shopping and avoiding unnecessary medical treatment.

Ben Handel, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, tells CBS that consumers do spend less when they share more of the costs — but not because they are shopping prices and reducing wasteful care.

A paper authored by Handel and fellow researchers and published by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research in October found that consumers with high deductibles reduce spending across the board:

We find no evidence of consumers learning to price shop after two years in high-deductible coverage. Consumers reduce quantities across the spectrum of health care services, including potentially valuable care (e.g. preventive services) and potentially wasteful care (e.g. imaging services).

How do you feel about high deductibles? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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