HDHPs have fallen way short of 'silver bullet' status
- High deductible health plans (HDHPs) represent only 30% of the health plans offered by employers, according to the "2018 Medical Trends and Observations Report" authored by DirectPath and Gartner. The two firms found that HDHPs haven't been effective cost-savers because employees don't know how health plans work, how to select the right plan or how to make effective use of health coverage.
- Researchers said a lack of plan knowledge, combined with privacy concerns, has left employers' health plans underused and that, as a result, employers aren't getting the return the ROI they anticipated. Employees, in turn, are frustrated with their plan choices, which underscores the need for plans to be accessible and customized, researchers conclude.
- Voluntary benefits remain popular among employees, but supplemental life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance offerings have decreased. Within their health benefits plans, 55% of employers offer telemedicine options, an increase of about one-third from 2017. Wellness plan offerings have also declined, and researchers in the report said the trend is impacted by employers' concerns about the plans' future legality and cost-savings capabilities.
Employees want and need to understand their benefits plans, regardless of what those plans are. Plan details should be communicated both during the roll out period and regularly thereafter, not just during open enrollment. Employers who haven't devoted time to explaining HDHPs to employees must share some of the responsibility for the plans' underutilization. HDHPs generally require more support and education in the workplace for employees to understand their options.
Despite their lower premiums, HDHPs appeal largely to higher-wage earners, and employers must do their homework in determining what percentage of their employees would likely sign up for HDHPs before offering the plans. That HDHPs appeal to a relatively small segment of the workforce might also account, in part, for their low adoption rates.
A more recent study found that some employees enrolled in HDHPs don't know that the plans cover preventive care services. The confusion has led some employees to skip examinations that could diagnose health problems before costly, more invasive treatment procedures become necessary. Preventive care can help employers and workers realize savings on healthcare costs.