New evidence suggests that people who pay more out of pocket for their own medical care tend to have healthier habits.
Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs), which pair high-deductible insurance with health savings accounts, charge lower premiums than conventional plans but leave patients with a bigger share of their routine medical bills. One frequent criticism of the plans is that they encourage people to skimp on preventive care, making them more vulnerable to serious illness.
But a May study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization, found that 67 percent of employees enrolled in CDHPs reported “excellent or very good health,” compared with 59 percent of enrollees in traditional plans. That could be because CDHP enrollees have a bigger incentive to care about their own health, although the study notes that there is some evidence that healthier individuals are more likely to choose CDHPs. The study also found that CDHP enrollees had substantially healthier lifestyles, exhibiting better health behavior than traditional plan enrollees with respect to smoking, exercise, and, recently, obesity rates.