NU Online News Service, May 14, 2003, 12:50 p.m. EDT – Fewer than 40% of U.S. household heads want to enroll in defined-contribution health plans, according to results of a survey sponsored by the Pareto Health Group, Washington.

Researchers at The Dieringer Research Group, Milwaukee, interviewed a sample that included a large number of heads of household under age 65 who have employer-sponsored health insurance. The researchers asked the household heads how likely they were to enroll in defined-contribution or “consumer-directed” health plans.

Defined-contribution health plans typically combine high-deductible health insurance with employer-funded personal care accounts for routine medical expenses. Many of the plans also offer Web-based information to help participants shop for health care.

Only 15% of the household heads told researchers they were very likely to enroll in defined-contribution plans, and 24% said they were somewhat likely to do so. Sixty-one percent said they were not likely to enroll in defined-contribution health plans.

Pareto says related interviews of mothers suggest that the market for defined-contribution plans could get bigger.

The Dieringer researchers found that 75% of the mothers surveyed want more control over money spent on health care and 71% believe that information for helping to manage health is an important feature of a health plan.

Eighty-three percent of the survey participants who said they were interested in enrolling in defined-contribution health plans also said they wished they had more control over the money they spend on health care.

Only 33% of the mothers surveyed said out-of-pocket costs were a bigger challenge than the cost of health insurance premiums, and only 33% said the government should be responsible for paying for health care.

But the researchers note that 51% of the single mothers surveyed said the government should pay for health care.