The promise of consumer driven health plans is that high-deductible health plans combined with health savings accounts (HSAs) can help make the insured spend more carefully and reduce health care costs, but so far few employers have embraced the plans. According to a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 7% of U.S. employers offer high-deductible health plans with HSAs, and only 4% of employees with health insurance are enrolled in such plans.
A plan by Wal-Mart to offer employees high-deductible health plans with lower premiums, rather than traditional low-deductible plans, will serve as a massive test of the claim that consumer-driven health plans can slow the sharp rise in medical costs by making individuals responsible for spending decisions. Under the plan, which will begin on Jan. 1, 2007, new employees can enroll in a health plan with a $1,000 deductible or a $3,000 deductible. One of the health plans will allow new employees to contribute to a health savings account after one year and Wal-Mart will contribute as much as $2,400 to the HSAs annually.
Because of the large number of relatively low income individuals employed by Wal-Mart, this should prove to be a solid test of the wider appeal of consumer driven health plans beyond the affluent self-insured market it has captured so far.
See full story at Kaiser Family Foundation - Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/27