Consumer-directed health plans gain traction

Nov 18, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

By Darla Mercado

There are more enrollees in consumer-directed health plans this year than last, and those individuals are more likely to have higher income and enjoy better health than their traditional plan counterparts, according to a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Some 4.2 million adults 21 to 64 are in a consumer-directed health plan, equivalent to 3% of the population, according to Washington-based EBRI’s 2008 Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey.

That is up from 2% of the population in 2007.

Meanwhile, 11%, or 13.4 million people, are in a high-deductible plan this year, holding steady from 2007.

Consumer-directed health plans are intended to put more responsibility on the individual consumer.

In these arrangements, coverage kicks in after the client hits a high deductible.

The plan is paired with a health savings account, which can be used to cover routine expenses.

Enrollees in these plans are also more likely to have a higher household income than their traditional plan counterparts.

Forty percent of those in consumer-directed plans had income of at least $100,000, while just 23% of those in traditional plans had comparable income.

Those who are in consumer-directed health plans are also more likely to be in excellent or very good health.

Forty-five percent of those in consumer-directed plans reported having a health problem such as heart disease, hypertension or asthma, compared with 54% in traditional plans.

They were also less likely to smoke. Thirteen percent of those in consumer-directed plans smoked, while 20% of those in traditional coverage plans did so.

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