Higher co-pays for less useful treatment cuts costs

Consumers may not be thrilled with this approach, which might feel to them as though their freedom has been compromised. Still, it looks as if higher co-pays may steer them away from treatments researchers consider to be less useful. In a paper appearing this week in Health Affairs, Harvard University health policy professor Michael Chernew outlines a strategy by which insurance companies can save money--while improving care--if they raise co-pays for procedures or treatments that don't seem to be carrying their weight financially. Chernew argues that health benefit designers should make cost-effective treatments available for free or at a low cost, but charge more for treatments that don't get enough bang for the buck. "Traditional health insurance plans…trust patients to purchase healthcare based on the value of each specific treatment," Chernew said. "The trouble is, as experience has shown time and time again, patients are unable to spend their healthcare dollars wisely. Employers such as Pitney Bowes have already saved money by adopting this approach, says Chernew.

For more information on the study:
- read this United Press International article