Consumer-Directed Plans Surge as Employers Try to Control Costs

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media , August 25, 2010
  • The HRA groups were generally healthier than the PPO groups. This is in part because the group skewed about 3 years younger, and members were slightly more likely to be male.
  • Healthcare spending and utilization of health care services for the HRA groups generally increased by a smaller amount or decreased compared with the PPO groups, from the period before to the period after switching.

"Consumer-directed health plans are living up to their expectations as a way to help save employers money and put employees in greater control of their health care. In fact, offering these plans was the most often-cited tactic by employers to control costs. We fully expect that employer interest in CDHPs, and especially full-replacement plans, will continue to increase in the future," said Helen Darling, head of the National Business Group on Health, in a statement.

What the GAO report tells me is that payers who can swiftly market CDHPs/HRAs to younger, healthier, and wealthier populations will be in a position to build loyalty and win market share. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), however, health insurance exchanges will prohibit payers from selecting applicants on the basis of health.

Plans marketed and sold outside of HIEs presumably remain viable, but the fate of CDHPs under PPACA is an open question.

Cora Nucci is the Digital Associate Editorial Director for HealthLeaders Media.

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