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Iowa Number$ on Consumer-Driven Health Plans

Consumer-Driven Health Care in IowaConsumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP) — a trend, fad or an anomaly in Iowa?

Unsure? So am I.

Let me briefly explain using a few results from past studies.

A CDHP is considered by many to be the next generation of medical coverage that employers will offer to their employees. Under this approach, an employer will allocate a sum of money annually to offset the employees’ portion of a high-deductible plan. By doing this, employers continue to support their employees’ health care needs, while allowing employees to more directly control their own health coverage. The whole concept of CDHPs is to put the patient back into the health care cost equation, where they now have ‘skin in the game’ and should be capable of assessing the true value of health care. 

There are various hybrid arrangements of CDHP’s. The two most common funding vehicles for CDHP’s are Health Reimbursement Arrangements and Health Savings Accounts.

  • Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) – The HRA is an employer-provided fund that must be used by the employee for qualified medical expenses. HRAs allow the employer flexibility in plan design, such as permitting employees to roll over any unused balance into the following year. Typically, employees do not “own” such an account, and any balances are usually forfeited back to the Plan should the employee terminate employment.
  • Health Savings Account (HSA) – HSAs may be funded by the employee, employer or both. HSAs are permanent, portable, tax-favored savings accounts available to anyone with a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan. Because the HSA is owned by the employee, the employee retains control of their HSA even when changing employers.

In 2005, 4.5 percent of Iowa employers (regardless of size) reported they offered some type of a CDHP to their employees. In 2008, over 17 percent of Iowa employers reported offering a CDHP – whether it was a full replacement of other traditional health plans or offered as an option to traditional coverage. Our data was telling us that each year more Iowa employers were jumping on the CDHP bandwagon. This was beginning to look like a big trend in Iowa – not unlike what was being observed in other parts of the country. However, in 2012, something very strange happened. The number of employers reporting CDHP dropped to 13.3 percent.

David P. Lind Benchmark

In addition to observing this supposed-trend reversal, a large number of employers in our 2012 survey (over three-quarters) indicated they were ‘very unlikely’ to offer CDHPs within the next 12 months. This was also a big change from 2005 when only 41.5 percent of employers reported to be ‘very unlikely’ to offer CDHP coverage.

David P. Lind Benchmark

What happened? Not sure, but do have my suspicions.

CDHPs sound great in theory. In fact, I have been on a qualified, high-deductible health plan for at least seven years. Can they reduce unnecessary spending by the employee without undermining the preventive care aspects of coverage? Does the current marketplace offer the appropriate tools that are necessary for the health care ‘consumer’ to become more of an astute purchaser of health care? Frankly, there are national studies that show mixed results regarding these questions. My advice is to carefully review such reports and pay close attention to who commissioned these reports. It can make a difference on how the above questions are addressed.

So are CDHPs a trend, fad or an anomaly in Iowa?

Stay tuned to see what our 2013 Study reveals within the next two months.

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