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Does Enrollment in HighDeductible Health Plans Encourage Price Shopping?

Objective: To investigate whether enrollment in highdeductible health plans (HDHPs) led enrollees to choose lowerpriced providers for office visits and laboratory tests.

Study Setting: Claims data from more than 40 large employers.

Study Design: We compared the change in price for office visits and laboratory tests for enrollees who switched to HDHPs versus enrollees who remained in traditional plans. We estimated separate models for enrollees who changed providers versus those who remained with the same provider to disentangle the effects of HDHPs on provider choice and negotiated prices.

Data Collection: Claims data from 2004 to 2010 on 1.8 million enrollees.

Principal Findings: After enrollment in HDHPs, 28 percent of enrollees changed physicians for office visits (compared to 19 percent in the Traditional Plan group, p < .01); however, this did not result in a statistically significant reduction in price for office visits. About 25 percent of enrollees changed providers for laboratory tests (compared to 23 percent in the Traditional Plan group, p < .01), resulting in savings of about $2.09 or a 12.8 percent reduction in price per laboratory test. We found that HDHPs had lower negotiated prices for office visits but not for laboratory tests.

Conclusions: Highdeductible health plan enrollment may shift enrollees to lower cost providers, resulting in modest savings.

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