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High deductible health plans (HDHPs) are a popular way for those who don’t expect to have expensive medical services in a year pay lower premiums. The danger is that enrollees may not seek medical care when it’s needed or to manage chronic conditions because they can’t afford to meet the deductible.

IBI recently released a report investigating the link between health insurance plan design and barriers to care, especially in lower-income workers. Insured employees who reported cost related barriers to care were most likely to have HDHPs. And those who didn’t obtain care due to cost were absent more often from work.

To make paying for health care easier, health savings accounts (HSAs) can be paired with HDHPs. HSAs are federal income tax free and contributions can be made by both an employer and employee. HSAs can therefore be used to pay for care up to and exceeding plan deductibles.

The IRS and Treasury Department have just issued new guidance that expands the types of treatments for chronic conditions that can be considered preventive care. This is important because HDHPs are not required to have deductibles for preventive care. That means that these treatments can be covered at the normal rate of coverage for the health plan even though the deductible hasn’t yet been met. Another strategy for HDHPs offering preventive care is that these treatments can be covered under a different and lower deductible.

These new rules could pay off for employers if they help employees get care that keeps them healthy and on the job. Our study found that HSAs reduced barriers to care only for employees in the highest income groups.

The new rules, with more conditions considered under the preventive care classification, could increase access to care for lower income workers. This could benefit employers offering HDHPs beyond having a healthier workforce, by having a more present workforce.

 

Posted by Erin Peterson

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