High-deductible Health Plans and Emergency Department Use

Published in: JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, v. 297, no. 10, Editorials, Mar. 14, 2007, p. 1126-1127

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by Corita R. Grudzen, Robert H. Brook

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Discusses findings from an observational study that assesses the relationship between transition to a high deductible health plan and use of emergency departments (EDs). The authors major conclusion is that individuals whose health insurance coverage was switched to a high-deductible health plan, compared with those in a traditional health maintenance organization, reduced overall ED visits by about 10%, mainly for conditions of low and indeterminate severity. They acknowledge they were unable to assess whether patients experienced adverse events or increased mortality by forgoing some ED visits. The authors report that patients in individual high deductible health plans had increased odds of having ED visits during the period that they had not met their deductible compared with the period after their deductible was exceeded.

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