Co-blogger Mike tipped me to this intriguing, and ultimately validating, story on an ambitious study undertaken by Aetna. Indeed, as Mike also pointed out, HR behemoth Mercer is "effectively blessing the Aetna study results." Mercer, by the way, bills itself as "the global leader for trusted HR and related financial advice, products and services."
The comprehensive, 6 year study sought to determine whether any of the charges leveled against Consumer-centric health care were valid. The most oft-cited of these canards include:
"Folks in high deductible plans skimp on preventive care."
"Folks in high deductible plans eschew important health screenings like diabetes and breast and cervical cancer."
"Folks in high deductible plans skip needed meds, especially for chronic conditions."
"Folks in high deductible plans don't really use the online resources available to them any more than those with co-pay plans do."
The results of the study shatter every single one of these. It's important to note that the carriers themselves are apt to be quite objective when undertaking these studies. After all, they're not trying to get folks to switch from another carrier, only to determine whether or not their own products are serving the needs of their insureds. This is important in assessing the validity and bias of such studies.
What Aetna found was fascinating, and extremely good news for those of us who advocate more Consumer Driven Health Care (CDHC):
Turns out that insureds in CDH Plans seek out "preventive care more often than the control matched PPO population. Furthermore, Aetna HealthFund members had 10 percent lower primary care physician utilization for non-routine services and 15 percent lower utilization of specialist care" than those in co-pay plans.
Also, these folks "(a)ccess the same or higher levels of screenings for diabetes and breast and cervical cancer, compared to members in traditional PPO products."
And they use "the prescription drugs necessary to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease and high cholesterol at similar or higher rates than PPO members."
Finally, folks with "skin in the game" utilize those "consumer tools and information ... at twice the rate compared to PPO members."
Game, set and match.
Now, this isn't to say that CDH plans are a panacea, as they clearly are not. But it should lay to rest the most often heard objections to their use. The one issue which the study didn't seem to address was cost-differential with regard to co-pay plans, and between various out-of-pocket levels of HDHP's. I still think that carreirs need to look at these results as indicative of High Deductible Plans' ability to keep costs down and insureds healthy, and thus put some downward pressure on pricing of these plans.