Consumers may shy away from the new “consumer-driven” health plans because of a lack of meaningful information about the cost of medical care.
A team of U.S. Government Accountability Office researchers led by John Dicken, a GAO director, has published that conclusion in a review of the CDHP market.
The GAO researchers looked at high-deductible health insurance plans that offer insureds access to health reimbursement arrangements or health savings accounts.
Although more than 5 million U.S. residents have HRAs or HSAs, many of those health account holders have a difficult time using account assets, the researchers write.
Only 3 of 5 multistate CDHP health insurers studied offered patients access to pharmacy-specific prescription drug prices.
None of the health insurers offered patients access to “actual negotiated” physician-specific or hospital-specific payment rates.
Negotiated rates matter because insurers rarely pay providers’ “list prices.” Instead, insurers and providers usually use complicated contracts to come up with discounted prices.
Companies such as the Metavante unit of Marshall & Ilsley Corp., Milwaukee, or Evolution Benefits Inc., Avon, Conn., have used debit cards as the basis for developing automated claim handling systems.
In many cases, health insurers can use the automated systems to apply any contractual discounts. A card holder can pay a correctly “repriced” claim while still in the provider’s office, according to the card companies.