The usual knock against health plans that give patients a financial stake in health decisions is that patients are likely to make short-term financial decisions at the expense of long-term health: Given the chance, they might skimp on care in order to save a bit of cash, potentially resulting in worse health and perhaps even greater total expenses once their ailments become serious.
But a 2009 review of high-quality research into consumer-drive health plans (CDHPs), which typically pair high-deductible insurance with a health savings account, suggested that in fact the opposite was true: Individuals enrolled in far-less-expensive CDHPs were more likely to utilize preventive services than those in traditional plans.
Now Greg Scandlen points to yet another study suggesting that CDHP enrollment correlates with healthier behavior: According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, CDHP enrollees "exhibited better health behavior than traditional plan enrollees with respect to smoking, exercise, and, recently, obesity rates." Neither study is conclusive, and the new study is careful to note that the study wasn't designed to determine whether CDHP enrollment actually causes better behavior. But the results make sense from a basic property rights perspective. Is it really surprising to find that individuals who have a financial stake in their own health end up making healthier decisions?