Results For Consumer-Driven Plans Getting Clearer
How well do employees really drive their health plans? For health agents and employers, thats the question of the day.
The answer: After a year, “consumer-driven” plans seem to be holding medical costs to about 90% of the expected amount.
But the early results “just lead us to more questions that we want to have answered,” says Robin Downey, head of product development at Aetna Inc., Hartford.
About 1 million U.S. consumers have health coverage that includes a health reimbursement arrangement, a medical saving account or some other personal health account, up from 500,000 a year ago, according to Arnold Milstein, medical director of the Pacific Business Group on Health, San Francisco.
The number could double by 2005, he adds.
Although the oldest U.S. account-based plans are just a few years old, “its very important for employers to start seeing some credible data,” Downey says.
Government officials also are interested, because they hope an account-based approach can keep skyrocketing Medicare and Medicaid claims from bankrupting the country.
Members of the congressional Joint Economic Committee called Milstein and other health policy experts to testify in February at a hearing on the performance of account-based plans and other types of consumer-driven plans.
Milstein has been working on a study of 15 consumer-driven plans.
The 3 plans that talked about their claims experience said the consumer-driven approach seems to be holding medical costs to about 90% of what they expected, Milstein testified.
The companies that organize account-based plans are putting out similar figures.
When Aetna looked at medical costs for 13,800 workers who belonged to its account-based HealthFund plans during the first 3 quarters of 2002 and the first 3 quarters of 2003, it found that costs for the workers in account-based plans rose only 1.5%, while costs for workers in the traditional plans rose more than 10%.
About 50% of the employees with health accounts have assets to roll over at the end of the year, and those employees end the year with about 60% of the initial contribution.
At one employer that offers both an Aetna account-based plan and traditional health coverage, prescription drug costs at the traditional plan rose 5.1%. Because workers in the account-based plan filled fewer prescriptions and used more generic drugs, their prescription costs fell 6.5%, Downey says.