The recent trend of larger employers choosing to offer only high-deductible health plans for their employees health care coverage is growing according to recent surveys and is beginning to have an effect on the American hospital system.
The number of employers who offer only high deductible health plans has grown, particularly in the last few years according to one recent employer survey. Along the same lines, it has now become apparent that nearly 75% of all larger employers are offering at least one high deductible plan to employees during this year’s open enrollment period.
However, this trend toward high deductible plans is likely to bear consequences for both providers and their patients. Logically speaking, if patients are going to be held responsible for a greater portion of their health care expenses, the demand for disambiguated pricing data is very likely to intensify.
Another likely scenario is that provider organizations will have to deal with greater collection and billing issues that are tied to the patient’s deductible. Some industry insiders are encouraging hospitals to provide financial counseling services pertaining to patient responsibility and point of service estimates for services.
Recently many hospitals have seen an increase in the amount of patients who have high deductible plans, which is causing an increase in bad debt because of patients who only come to the realization that they have a larger portion of the cost of their care after they have already been treated.
Even though so many have moved to such plans, many hospitals still appear to be leery about discussing the increased costs of a patient’s plan before an elective surgery is provided. Furthermore, some hospitals are reporting that high-deductible policies are discouraging patients from seeking out health care services.
The hesitation to seek medical attention that patients who have high deductible plans feel is one of many issues that these plans present for patients and providers. Recent studies imply that lower income enrollees in such plans have reduced their use of emergency departments by as much as 30% in the last few years. Other studies show that men in particular are visiting hospital emergency departments much less, even in severe cases.
“The thought of patients doing without the medical attention that they need is not only tragic but completely unnecessary,” said David Hamilton, CEO of Mnet Financial. “Mnet offers financial products that are designed to help patients in need of therapies, procedures and surgeries prescribed by their medical practitioners. For instance, our online payment plan management solution allows the patient to set up a payment plan that they can afford so they can resolve the portion they are responsible to pay under their health plan,” said Hamilton.
A recent insurance enrollee survey shows that overall satisfaction with high deductible health plans is steadily gaining momentum, likely due to the lower premium costs. While the ultimate impact from the use of such plans will only truly become apparent in the future, employers are making it clear that they view them their most effective tool to control the costs of health care.