The Health Care Cost Institute report looked at costs from 2010 through 2014 associated with consumer-driven health plans, or CDHPs, which tie plans with high deductibles to either a health savings account or to a health-reimbursement arrangement.
High-deductible plans require enrollees to pay more out of pocket for health services than traditional health plans. The deductible in a plan must be met before the plan pays for services. The HSAs and HRAs help to lessen the sting of such costs because they allow either workers or employers to set aside tax-advantaged money to pay for out-of-pocket costs.
As a rule, high-deductible plans also have lower monthly premiums than traditional health plans.
High-deductible plans have become increasingly popular among employers as they seek to keep premiums in check, and discourage unnecessary use of health care.
HCCI's study found that the high-deductible plans appear to be doing just that. The study was based on fee-for-service claims provided by Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare for 40 million people per year who were covered by employer-sponsored insurance.
In every year studied, people who weren't in consumer-directed health plans had total per capita spending on health care that was higher than CDHP enrollees, according to the report.
Average per capita health spending from 2010 to 2014 for non-CDHP coverage was $4,767 annually. That is $520 more than the per capita spending of people with CDHP coverage.
The per capita spending includes both what the plan pays for health services, and what the individual pays out of pocket, personally. It does not include premiums paid for the coverage.
The lower health spending by CDHP-covered people reflects the fact that, as a group, they tend to use less health care than people on other types of plans — with rates of utilization that are 9 to 13 percent lower, depending on the type of care.
Use of brand-name prescriptions by CDHP customers is even lower. Those customers have a utilization rate for brand-name drugs that is 21 percent lower than their non-CDHP counterparts.