Original Research

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 1105-1111

Delayed and Forgone Care for Families with Chronic Conditions in High-Deductible Health Plans

  • Alison A. GalbraithAffiliated withCenter for Child Health Care Studies, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute Email author 
  • , Stephen B. SoumeraiAffiliated withDepartment of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute
  • , Dennis Ross-DegnanAffiliated withDepartment of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute
  • , Meredith B. RosenthalAffiliated withDepartment of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health
  • , Charlene GayAffiliated withCenter for Child Health Care Studies, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute
  • , Tracy A. LieuAffiliated withCenter for Child Health Care Studies, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care InstituteDivision of General Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Boston

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Abstract

Background

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) are an increasingly common strategy to contain health care costs. Individuals with chronic conditions are at particular risk for increased out-of-pocket costs in HDHPs and resulting cost-related underuse of essential health care.

Objective

To evaluate whether families with chronic conditions in HDHPs have higher rates of delayed or forgone care due to cost, compared with those in traditional health insurance plans.

Design

This mail and phone survey used multiple logistic regression to compare family-level rates of reporting delayed/forgone care in HDHPs vs. traditional plans.

Participants

We selected families with children that had at least one member with a chronic condition. Families had employer-sponsored insurance in a Massachusetts health plan and >12 months of enrollment in an HDHP or a traditional plan.

Main Measures

The primary outcome was report of any delayed or forgone care due to cost (acute care, emergency department visits, chronic care, checkups, or tests) for adults or children during the prior 12 months.

Results

Respondents included 208 families in HDHPs and 370 in traditional plans. Membership in an HDHP and lower income were each independently associated with higher probability of delayed/forgone care due to cost. For adult family members, the predicted probability of delayed/forgone care due to cost was higher in HDHPs than in traditional plans [40.0% vs 15.1% among families with incomes <400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and 16.0% vs 4.8% among those with incomes ≥400% FPL]. Similar associations were observed for children.

Conclusions

Among families with chronic conditions, reporting of delayed/forgone care due to cost is higher for both adults and children in HDHPs than in traditional plans. Families with lower incomes are also at higher risk for delayed/forgone care.

KEY WORDS

health insurance deductible cost sharing utilization health policy