A recent survey of employers indicated that nationally the number of employees with individual deductibles of at least $1,000 nearly tripled during the last four years, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. The survey also indicated some raised their deductibles as high as $10,000, while avoiding preventive procedures and tests to keep overall medical costs low.
Possible consequences are dangerous, experts told the Times. A study by UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research found that 504,000 of 3 million Californians with high deductibles delayed seeing doctors and specialists, and that half cited cost as the primary reason.
"They are more likely to end up in emergency rooms or hospitals because they are delaying more appropriate preventive care," UCLA researcher Dylan Roby said.
Health experts said preventive care is key to lowering the healthcare costs and the new healthcare reform law offers incentives for people to get regular checkups.
Under measures that began going into effect in September, insurers will be required to pay for procedures such as colonoscopies and mammograms that people with high deductibles might now avoid. Beginning in 2014, deductibles for workers in smaller companies will be limited to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families.
"The way employers have been dealing with cost is by moving to less comprehensive, flimsier coverage with higher deductibles because it costs them less," Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman said. "That's why workers have never been more upset about their own healthcare costs. The share they pay out of their pockets has been going up mostly because more people are in high-deductible plans."