Consumer-Directed Health Plans Not Likely To Reduce Costs, Report Finds
Consumer-directed health care plans -- "promoted as a means to encourage consumers to take better care of themselves and thus reduce medical costs" -- may "worsen outcomes" instead, according to a Commonwealth Fund report released Thursday, the Kansas City Star reports. The report said that direct evidence about the effects of consumer-directed plans on health spending and utilization is "sparse" because the plans are still "relatively new and untested by large numbers of enrollees," with fewer than one million individuals enrolled in such plans out of 160 million covered by employer health plans (Stafford, Kansas City Star, 8/20).
Researchers instead based the report on the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, which assessed how the effect of cost sharing on patients' use of health care services. Fund President and report author Karen Davis writes, "Patient cost-sharing -- the principal tool used by these plans to achieve lower spending -- may also discourage consumers from getting necessary medical care." According to the Star, the report states that this decrease in care received would result in patients needing more expensive care for more severe or chronic conditions at a later time -- "a net negative in the effort to control health care costs" (Kansas City Star, 8/20).
The reports says U.S. health care leaders and policymakers should promote a high-performance health care system instead of only seeking to reduce consumer spending. To achieve this goal, the report says that the United States should begin to collect cost and quality data from the public; invest in health information technology; develop guidelines and standards; reward high-quality performance, including better management of high-cost conditions; and invest in health care quality research by federal agencies (Commonwealth Fund release, 8/19).