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Thursday, March 24, 2005

AP (out of Philadelphia Inquirer): Survey shows healthcare savings valued by employees above flexibility.

Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance are becoming more willing to accept limits on their choice of providers in order to save on their medical expenses, a new survey found.

By Theresa Agovino

Associated Press


NEW YORK - Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance are becoming more willing to accept limits on their choice of providers in order to save on their medical expenses, a new survey found.

The amount of Americans with employer-provided coverage who would trade choice of doctors and hospitals for lower out-of-pocket costs rose to 59 percent in 2003 from 55 percent in 2001, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

The increase is likely a result of employers shifting rising health-care costs to their workers in the form of higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments for doctor visits and prescription drugs, said Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the Washington-based policy research organization.

Ginsburg said the results were surprising because consumer attitudes about choice versus cost were stable between 1997 and 2001. There was enormous backlash against restrictive managed-care policies during the 1990s, paving the way for plans with a wide array of options. But Ginsburg said employers have been increasing cost-sharing only since 2002, and now consumers are feeling the pinch.

The study found that low-income consumers were more likely to sacrifice choice to save costs. Two-thirds of adults with income below $36,800 - double the federal poverty line for a family of four in 2003 - were willing to accept limitations. That compares with 54 percent of adults making at least $73,600, or 400 percent of the poverty level for a family of four.

Despite the survey, Ginsburg said he does not see a return to stringent managed-care policies. He said that some plans have reinstituted restrictions, such as needing a referral to see a specialist, but that it isn't a major trend. Ginsburg also said more plans may offer tiered hospital-care benefits so those who go to lower-cost institutions pay less.

More employers are exploring what are called consumer-driven plans to cut health-care costs. In such plans, employees are provided with a certain amount of money to spend on their health needs. Once that money is used, employees must pay a deductible before a traditional insurance plan kicks in.

The findings are based on a regular nationwide survey of households the center has conducted regularly since 1997.

March 24, 2005 at 09:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack