HEALTH PLANS/POLICY: Real research on consumer-directed health plans

THCB‘s author’s anecdotes about HSAs seem to have been the Internet’s major source of information about consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). We may be wandering slowly past that dangerous stage! Both Health Affairs and Forrester are out with some more information about them.

John Gabel from the HSC group has an article in Health Affairs which has a nice description of the HRA/high deductible plan, the consumer selected plan and the (as yet only existing in Powerpoint) “customize your own plan”. Gabel suggests that the analysis Harris provided THCB with last January is spot on. Employers have no confidence in CHDPs to either save much money or improve quality, but the CDHP may help them to continue to shift costs to employees–which is their main strategy. However, many employers are rightly worried that the CDHPs will ensure adverse selection against their overall risk pool. Currently only 2% of employees have access to an HRA, but Gabel’s team estimate that that number could increase to up to 30% in 2 years. Much more likely is a growth to 7-10% of employees over a slightly longer time period, roughly akin to the fast growth in PPO members in the 1980s.

Regular TCHB readers will know that I harbor deep skepticism about CDHPs even though I (sort of) have one myself. Brad Holmes from Forrester has some interesting new data about engaged consumers shopping for Rx and hospitals on price and quality. The data is well worth a look if you are working on creating services that are attractive to this upper-tier consumer group, which represents from 20% of the population, and is roughly akin to the “new consumer” group that IFTF has been telling you about forever (or since 1997).

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