KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Enrollees In High-Deductible Plans May Be Forgoing Care Because Of High Costs

People enrolled in high-deductible plans may forgo care because of excessive out-of-pocket costs, according to a new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

San Bernardino Sun: In 2007, 3 million of California's 32 million insured residents were enrolled in high-deductible policies, the report finds. The plans "offer lower monthly premiums in return for higher out-of-pocket spending for health care services and represent a rapidly growing segment of the health insurance market. … The number has grown significantly since because in the current economic climate, these policies are often the only ones many Californians - especially the self-employed and low-income - can afford," according to lead author Dylan Roby. The report adds that "studies have shown that significant cost sharing may create disincentives for both necessary and unnecessary care. While individuals with high-deductible plans may be less likely to use the emergency room for care, they may also delay necessary treatment or doctor visits" (Steinberg, 10/27).

Los Angeles Times: "The majority of participants in high-deductible plans, for example 80% of Kaiser HMO members, reported that they did not have any savings account for medical expenses, according to the report. The findings come as California establishes a new 'health benefits exchange,' as part of recently enacted federal healthcare legislation. The exchange will provide insurance to the state's uninsured, and under the law, out-of-pocket deductibles will be capped at $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families" (Simmons, 10/28).

Meanwhile, health insurance premium costs are expected to rise.

The Denver Post: "Colorado businesses are facing a projected 14.4 percent increase in health-insurance costs for 2011, the biggest jump in six years. The rise in Colorado rates is higher than national averages and runs the risk of stifling hiring and business expansion, analysts said. … On average, businesses will absorb about 57 percent of the higher premium costs and pass the remaining 43 percent on to employees, according to the survey."  Bill Lindsay, president of Lockton Benefit Group-Denver, "said Colorado is faring worse than other states because Colorado has a higher ratio of small businesses, which tend to bear a disproportionately larger share of insurance costs" (Raabe, 10/29).

San Jose Mercury News: "The cost of group health insurance will be up 9 percent in the Bay Area, including San Jose. On average, workers will see their share of annual premiums jump to $2,063 and out-of-pocket costs climb to $2,423, according to an analysis by the national consulting firm Hewitt Associates. That's more [than] double the tab from eight years ago. But President Barack Obama's health care reform means that workers will find new benefits, too. Young adult children can be added to family policies, lifetime limits on coverage will disappear, and many plans will offer free preventive care, such as colonoscopies" (Krieger, 10/29).

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