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February 23, 2021

High Deductibles May Encourage Smarter Patient Decisions About Low-Value Care Use - New Research Insights

A new study, conducted by NIHCM research grantee Neeraj Sood, PhD, at the University of Southern California, Brendan Rabideau of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues, suggests that health care plans with deductibles of at least $500 may encourage more value-based decisions about health care use, reducing spending while also protecting health care consumers from potential dangers associated with low-value care.

Their work is the first to show that:

  • Once a company offered a health plan with a deductible of at least $500, its spending on employee health care costs for a set of 24 outpatient services judged to be low-value care fell by an average of 13.7%, compared to firms not offering such a plan.
  • Spending on low-value care fell more than spending on all outpatient care, hinting that patients have some ability to smartly curtail use of low-value health care when faced with higher cost sharing.

Sood and his team suggest that more research is needed to assess use of high-value care and patient outcomes and to determine if economically vulnerable populations react to high deductibles in the same way as the employees in this study.