Workers in High-Deductible Plans Report More Bill Problems

About 39% of employer plan enrollees now have high-deductible coverage

About 35% of all adults who had private health coverage in 2016 had high-deductible coverage. (Photo: Allison Bell/TA) About 35% of all adults who had private health coverage in 2016 had high-deductible coverage. (Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

High health plan deductibles might cause more medical bill headaches in the employer plan market than in the individual market.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention give evidence for that possibility in a summary of 2016 results from the National Health Interview Survey program.

(Related: Growth in HSA Plan Enrollment Slows)

The U.S. Census Bureau helps the survey team administer the questionnaire to about 35,000 households every year. For the new survey report, CDC researchers looked at the data for privately insured adults ages 18 to 64. The researchers set the threshold for high-deductible coverage at $1,300 for self-only coverage and $2,600 for family coverage.

The researchers found that:

  • The percentage of all privately insured, working-age adults with a high-deductible plan increased to 35% in 2016, from 24% in 2011.

  • The percentage of working-age employer plan enrollees who had high-deductible coverage increased to 39%, from 26%, over that same five-year period.

  • Use of high-deductible plans seemed to have a much higher correlation with medical bill problems in the employer plan market than in the individual market.

Employer plan enrollees were more likely than individual coverage users to say they had family income over 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

In the individual coverage market, however, the high-deductible coverage holders were about as likely to report having problems with getting care or paying bills as users of low-deductible coverage.

In the employer plan market, the differences were stark.

There, 15% of the high-deductible employer plan users reported having medical bill problems, and 9% reported having problems with access to care.

In the low-deductible plan market, 4.1% of the coverage users reported having problems with getting access to care, and 9% reported having care access problems.

--- Read Democrat Calls HSAs a Poor Substitute for ACA Tax Credits on ThinkAdvisor.

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