Confusion about HDHPs leads to missed preventative care, researchers say

  • Patients in high deductible health plans (HDHPs) are skipping preventive care services, according to NPR affiliate WBAA, citing a study by the Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis. Researchers in the study think plan participants may not know that HDHPs cover preventive care, so they skip annual visits to their primary care physician or put off cancer screenings to avoid anticipated costs.
  • HDHPs have become more popular with consumers since introduced in 2004. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 28% of respondents in employer-sponsored health plans were enrolled in HDHPs, a 9% increase over the last five-year period.
  • Nir Menachemi, a professor of public health at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, told WBAA that HDHPs have made plan participants more cost-conscious by, for example, reducing ER visits to hospitals. But he added that enrollees might be confused about the services HDHPs cover and therefore need more education about the plans.


HDHP plan participants might not only be confused about coverage — stress may play a role, too. A 2016 study from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America concluded that HDHP participants require more support and education from employers about their plan options and long-term health risks.

​Employees sometimes think they know more about their benefits than they actually do. A separate study found that while 80% of employees tested said they understood their benefits quite well, test results showed that only about 49% did.

Open enrollment is the perfect time to educate employees about their benefits. Even so, HR should make benefits information available to employees year-round — not just during enrollment season — so that employees may be better-informed consumers when electing plans. Having it available online for viewing 24/7 empowers workers to own that knowledge, too.

Preventive care is critical to health maintenance. It can help keep healthcare costs down by preventing serious, more expensive medical treatment later on. One employer, Zocdoc, has gone so far as to allow employees an “unsick day” for medical check-ups.


Oct. 6, 2017


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