Study: High-deductible employer plans contribute to financial burden for low-income patients

Nearly half of low-income adults with chronic health conditions and a high-deductible, employer-sponsored insurance plan are facing crushing financial burdens from the cost of health care, according to a new study from researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, researchers examined 2011-2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component data on adults 19 to 64 years of age enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance plans.

They found 47% of low-income individuals with multiple chronic conditions and a high-deductible plan were paying more than 20% of their family income on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

Those high out-of-pocket costs for low-income adults with employer-sponsored insurance may create a barrier to achieving effective treatment for managing those multiple chronic conditions, wrote lead researchers Salam Abdus and Patricia S. Keenan in a summary of their findings.

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The National Business Group on Health recently reported these sorts of plans are falling from grace among employers, with an increasing number of companies slowing enrollment in such coverage and, in some cases, reinstating more traditional plans. This is due to a stronger job market and concerns about affordability for employees, particularly lower-wage workers, NBGH officials said.