Consumer-Directed Health Plans Affect Patient Choices

Patients with high deductibles likely to forgo care or stop taking medications to save money

MONDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Enrollees in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans may be more likely than those with other coverage to either delay seeking care or stop taking medications for chronic illnesses, according to two studies published in the July/August issue of Health Affairs.

In one study, Anna Dixon, Ph.D., of the King's Fund in London, U.K., and colleagues used panel data from two surveys conducted in 2004 and 2005 of employees at one large employer. They found that enrollees in the high-deductible consumer-directed health plan were more likely than those in the preferred provider organization to forgo medical care because of the cost.

In a second study, Jessica Greene, Ph.D., of the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore., and colleagues assessed pharmacy claims data from one large company. They found that enrollees in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans were significantly more likely to discontinue two of five drug classes than those with other coverage.

"As high-deductible consumer-directed health plans become more widespread -- and less generous -- implementing timely and effective measures to prevent discontinuation of chronic-illness medications will be important," Greene and colleagues write. "The success of consumer-directed health plans may be compromised if enrollees make decisions considering the short-term cost savings rather than their long-term health and finances."

Several of the authors of the second study are employees of pharmaceutical companies.

Abstract - Dixon
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Abstract - Greene
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