Haviland says more studies are planned to determine the extent to which necessary medical care is sacrificed for cost savings. But for now this CDHP research project presents troubling news for the triple aim of healthcare reform—better care, better health, and lower cost. Everyone, especially employers and health plans, should stop and think about such lofty expectations. Is the fabled consumer who will use the power of the marketplace to reduce his healthcare bill in fact a myth?
It’s important that all parties take a hard look at how cost-cutting and care-cutting play out in high-deductible health plans. Healthcare reform is expected to further encourage enrollment in these plans, which will probably be among the key offerings in health insurance exchanges. That could translate into millions of new enrollees who might not receive the medical care they need.
Consider the example of the episode of care for a broken wrist once more. Assuming that each physical therapy session is billed at $120, then the patient could save $600 by forgoing five sessions. But what are the long-term costs? Nerve damage? Limited use of that hand? Maybe health insurers, lawmakers and employers need to stop talking about lower healthcare costs to the exclusion of the other two parts of the triple aim. Better care and better health offer a sustainable way to control healthcare costs. That’s the message consumers need to hear.