Consumer-Driven Plans Yield Savvy Health Care Consumers, Study Says

Published January 1, 2008

Participants enrolled in consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) are more likely to plan and save for health care coverage, according to a survey by Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

The survey was conducted by Jennifer Vachon, BCBSA’s executive director of marketing and consulting services, and its findings were presented at the National Consumer-Driven Healthcare Summit in Washington, DC on September 28.

The survey brought good news, said Devon Herrick, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas.

“Moving to consumer-driven health plans will allow workers themselves to make decisions about health care and other uses for their money,” Herrick explained. “It will also give them an incentive to be wise consumers of health care. In the long run it will benefit both workers and employers.”

Broad Appeal

To gain insight into consumers’ characteristics, engagement, and satisfaction, the survey–the BCBSA 2007 CDHP Member Experience Survey–included information from 3,000 consumers who were enrolled in Blue Cross and Blue Shield consumer-driven health plans, non-Blue CDHPs, and non-CDHP health plans.

BCBSA, headquartered in Chicago, is a national federation of 39 independent, community-based, and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

According to the survey results, Health Savings Account (HSA) holders represent all age brackets, income, and education levels.

CDHPs, which use HSAs or health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), are steadily gaining traction nationwide. In late August, United Benefit Advisors (UBA), an Indianapolis-based alliance of 142 independent benefit advisory firms nationwide, released the findings of its third annual employer-sponsored health plan benchmark survey.

UBA found CDHPs represent 8.8 percent of all the plans offered by employers, up from only 5.8 percent in 2006. Currently, 6 percent of all covered employees are enrolled in such plans, up from just 3.4 percent in 2006.

Paving the Way

Wisconsin has led the way among states embracing HSAs. Diana Ernst, a health care policy fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, notes almost 30 percent of Wisconsin’s health plans are now consumer-driven.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a free-market think tank in Alexandria, Virginia, confirmed the Badger State’s leadership role.

“Wisconsin has always been willing to take the lead in solving public policy problems,” Turner said. “The state was a leader in paving the way for welfare reform, and it is not surprising that it would also be moving toward health reform initiatives that engage consumers as partners in managing their health care and health spending.

“Wisconsin can demonstrate to other states that account-based health plans can help to moderate health costs, making it easier for employers to continue to offer coverage and easier for employees to afford it,” Turner concluded.

Dr. Sanjit Bagchi ([email protected]) writes from India.

For more information …

“BCBSA 2007 CDHP Member Experience Survey,” by Jennifer Vachon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of America, September 28, 2007:

United Benefit Advisors satisfaction slide show: