How do we reduce unnecessary or wasteful health care spending so that we can increase health care access and reduce the cost of health care? This is a policy question that has vexed policymakers for many years. But new research suggests that market innovations such as health savings accounts paired with high-deductible insurance coverage (collectively referred to as “consumer-driven health plans,” or CDHPs) may hold part of the answer.
The study, just published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at a dataset of 13 million individuals employed at 54 “large U.S. firms” to see how making CDHPs available to employees influenced health care spending and costs. The researchers note that “there is robust empirical evidence” from previous studies that CDHPs “effectively incentivize patients to change their health care use and reduce costs in the first year” by reducing spending between 5 and 24 percent, according to past research. But, they continue, “the effects of CDHPs on spending in the longer term are … ambiguous and the empirical evidence … is limited.”
The researchers also explain how the longer-term CDHP studies also suffer from methodological limitations that make generalizing their results a questionable enterprise. Hence the justification for their study, which looked at health care spending up to three years after CDHPs are offered by employers to their employees and used better data than the previous studies, with a stronger statistical methodology.
The study found “that spending is reduced … in all three years” after an employer in their data began offering CDHPs to their employees. Read more