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EBRI: High-Deductible Health Plan Participants Report More Problems with Access

By CQ Staff

July 13, 2012 -- Consumers enrolled in a high-deductible health plan—with or without a health savings or reimbursement account—are more likely to have delayed or avoided getting health care or skipped medicine doses than those with traditional insurance, according to a report recently released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

This new EBRI study found that in 2011, among people with traditional health insurance, 31 percent reported either not filling a prescription because of the cost or skipping doses to make the medicine last longer. That compares with 42 percent of people who had a deductible of at least $1,000 but did not also have either an health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement account (HRA). Among those who had at least a $1,000 deductible but also an HSA or HRA, 36 percent reported such access issues.

The survey also indicates that the longer someone has a high-deductible plan with one of the accounts, the less likely they are to skimp on their medical care.

Among individuals who had such consumer-driven health plans for less than one year, 42 percent reported access issues. But among those who had such plans for one-to-two years, 33 percent reported problems and among those with such plans for three or more years 32 percent had access problems.

Two variables that cut across the kind of health plan someone has is household income and health problems.

"Regardless of health plan type, individuals with health problems and those in households with less than $50,000 a year were more likely than their counterparts to report access issues," said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI's Health Research and Education Program.

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