Move to high deductibles a disaster

Move to high deductibles a disaster | Truth in Health Care blogIn theory, it sounded good. Make patients pay a little more out of pocket and they’ll start shopping around for lower-cost health care providers.

So executives at health plans, along with employers, raised their deductibles and we sat back to watch Black Friday-like shopping sprees and plummeting health care prices. Only that never happened.

Why don’t patients compare health care prices?

What gives? According to ScienceLine, it’s not that patients are against comparing health care prices:

[L]ow rates of price shopping do not appear to be driven by opposition to the idea: The majority of [patients] believed that price shopping for care is important and did not believe that higher-cost providers were of higher quality. Common barriers to shopping included difficulty obtaining price information and a desire not to disrupt existing provider relationships.

Health care prices are indeed hard to find. But, as numerous studies have confirmed, few patients compare prices even when provided with a user-friendly online tool to do so.

Perhaps they just don’t have the money

So they simply don’t want to change providers? Or is it something else? Drew Altman, CEO of Kaiser Family Foundation, citing a new study, says it’s simply because they don’t have the money.

More than four in 10 households with private coverage and incomes between 150% and 400% of the federal poverty line do not have enough liquid assets to cover a deductible of $1,500 for single people and $3,000 for families.

In other words, lower- and moderate-income Americans don’t have the resources to pay for an average deductible in today’s employer-provided insurance market. A significant illness can wipe out their savings—just to pay for the deductible.

What to do? The solution to rising health care costs is thorny and complex. So let’s start with what not to do: Let’s not keep raising health plan deductibles. We now have a massive amount of data showing that high deductibles are a blunt tool. They hit patients hard, while leaving prices high and rising.

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