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Consumers with high-deductible insurance often don't consider options

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Steve Bryson
Recession could lead tens of millions to lose health insurance
Recession could lead tens of millions to lose health insurance

Over the last several years, one of the big issues in the health care industry as a whole is that people have been buying the coverage they're required by law to have, but they aren't often tapping it. Part of the big reason for this is that low-income consumers, who are being granted access to the Healthcare.gov exchanges, are typically buying the plans which have the lowest premiums. Unfortunately, that often means they don't shop around to determine which types of care will actually work best for them going forward.

Indeed, a recent survey from the University of Southern California found that people who have health insurance with a high deductible often didn't consider their options when it came to selecting the best possible plan, according to a report from Reuters Health. Interestingly, though, these people also tended to be Caucasian Americans who had steady jobs, as well as higher income levels and more education. But in all, about 5 in every 9 people surveyed had a high-deductible plan.

Consumers with high deductibles often don't shop around for lower-priced care.Consumers with high deductibles often don't shop around for lower-priced care.

Other data to consider
Currently, only about 1 in 10 such consumers with any kind of coverage thought about changing doctors as a result of being quoted a higher price for care than they might like - the vast majority opting to simply grin and bear it - the report said. In addition, only about 1 in 25 actually compared the size of the out-of-pocket expenses they'd face.

Neeraj Sood, who led the USC study, noted that this was likely due to the fact that consumers are looking for things to be more convenient, and that they prefer to be treated by doctors with whom they are already familiar, the report said. He further noted, though, that it's also very difficult these days for consumers to compare costs in the first place, so even if they want to do it, there may be significant hurdles that prevent them from doing so.

More is being done to ease this price-shopping process for consumers, but it certainly isn't there yet even for people who have comparison tools available to them, let alone those who still have little to no access in this regard, the report said. Moreover, even if they can find better prices, it's often a hassle to make a purchase online, if it's not impossible.

What does this mean for the industry?
Dr. Joseph S. Ross of Yale University recently penned an editorial on this subject, and stated that one thing the health insurance industry as a whole may need to do here is to make this data easier for patients to understand, the report said. Right now, most of it is really only comprehendible for doctors and those in the health care industry, rather than the patients who need the information most.

The more health insurers can do to make these options more apparent to their policyholders, the better off all involved are likely to be, especially when it comes to those with high deductibles. That's because people who avoid health care because of the cost may end up with more expensive problems later on.



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