High Deductible Health Plans: Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
We've touched on several aspects of high deductible health plans (HDHPs) in recent blogs, from transitioning the business office to the challenge of unanticipated consumer reactions. But there is, in reality a much larger picture to paint. We think a recent blog from HealthAffairs titled "Trouble ahead for high deductible health plans" breaks down the HDHP phenomenon pretty succinctly. Here's a fast summary:
1. HDHPs are not going anywhere anytime soon.They're here to stay, so the scope of any "trouble" they create is large. How large? As of January 2014, 17.4 million were enrolled. That's 74% more than in 2010, so you can extrapolate the data and take a guess at where it will be by the beginning of 2016.
2. Patients don't actually understand HDHPs. This is no surprise to us, as we speak with patients every day and our primary goal is education. Why? Because when a patient understands his bill, he is more likely to pay it. Patient education "done right" will have a massive impact on a provider's bottom line and will serve as a positive push for patient loyalty.
3. Patients are choosing to forego care due to cost. Check out our recent post on this very topic. We think it's fair to question the long-term effect of this trend on our healthcare system.
4. Doctors' orders don't carry much weight anymore. Not following those doctor's orders can be detrimental to a patient's health. But following them can be detrimental to his wallet. After all, high deductibles aren't called 'high" just for fun. When a patient delays or avoids care, the risk of a more adverse health situation rises, and so do the associated costs, which means the financial burden to the patient will be that much more severe. Anyone else see a vicious cycle here? Anyone else understand the impact on the provider as well as the patient?
5. Short run/long run decisions about care impact emergency room utilization and hospitalizations. Refer to 4, above.
Read the entire HealthAffairs blog here for an interesting take on how we are all (providers, patients, payers) making assumptions based on imperfect information, as well as three fast recommendations for the short-term. But here's the bottom line. HDHPs, however well-intended, spell at least some measure of trouble ahead, and everyone (once again, providers, patients, and payers) has a responsibility to find ways to minimize the impact of that trouble. Are you in?
We are. Check out our ebook on how HDHPs are changing everything and our practical tips on making sure your self pay strategy will hold up.