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GAO: Consumer Drivers Need More Data

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Early results suggest that federal employees who use health savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements are more likely than other employees to have high incomes.

About 43% of the 3,900 federal employees who were enrolled in health account plans in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program in March 2005 had annual incomes over $75,000, compared with an average of just 23% for all plans, according to the researchers at the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

GAO researchers note that members of the “consumer-driven health plans” were not getting much more provider cost or quality information than members of traditional plans.

Members did get actual cost information for mail-order prescription drugs, but that was the only actual cost data provided by any of the health account plans, GAO researchers report.

Until provider-specific cost and quality data is available, “the CDHP goal of having enrollees make health care purchase decisions based on an informed assessment of the quality/cost trade-offs may not be fully realized,” John Dicken, a GAO official, writes in a letter discussing the researchers’ findings.