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Pediatricians In Texas Concerned About HDHPs

Aug 17, 2007
According to a March 5, 2007, Reuters newswire story, pediatricians throughout Texas and the U.S. are warning that new high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) are compromising patient care, especially among poorer children, with the unintended consequence of increasing medical costs.

The HDHPs, called "consumer-directed" plans by supporters, encourage people to take a more active role in their medical care.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics has joined other plan critics who fear high deductibles in the plans will lead patients to skip preventive care, most importantly immunizations and annual physicals for children. And this could lead to costlier treatment down the road, for example, if a patient winds up in an emergency room.

"Faced with difficult choices, families may seek to 'load up' on a scheduled visit to save money or delay care until after the deductible is met," the group wrote in the March issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics,. The Academy represents 60,000 physicians in the United States specializing in treating children.

The report comes as the share of U.S. employers offering health insurance has been slipping, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. Roughly 60 percent offered health coverage during 2005, down from 69 percent in 2000. Health insurance reform has become a national issue as the ranks of the uninsured rises steadily, now at 46.6 million, or 17 percent of the U.S. population.

In 2005, in lieu of dropping health coverage, about 30 percent of large and midsize corporations offered the high-deductible plans. These plans are typically are coupled with a pre-tax Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) used to pay for health costs. That compares with seven percent of companies polled by employee benefits consultant Watson Wyatt in 2004.

The nation's biggest health insurance companies, such as UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint Inc., have touted high-deductible plans to employers as a way to rein in medical costs, by encouraging better health-care choices.

The plans are able to exempt preventive services from the deductible requirement, and about 30 percent of the existing plans do so, according to the pediatricians' group. It recommends changing the tax code to compel the plans to exempt preventive care, in other words to not require a deductible. Deductible would, however, still apply to minor illnesses that can balloon to major illnesses without proper treatment.

The pediatrician's group also worries that high-deductible plans will lead to a "destabilization" of employer-sponsored health insurance.

Some high-deductible plan critics also say patients with these plans are more likely than those with traditional insurance to skip prescriptions and fail to follow up with their doctors.

There are High Deductible Health Plans on the market that encourage customers to focus on preventive care.
About the Author
Melih ("may-lee") Oztalay, CEO
SmartFinds Internet Marketing
Web: www.precedent.com
EMail: melih@hsfideas.com
Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance in Texas.
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