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High deductible less cost, less prevention

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 25 (UPI) -- When people shifted to health insurance plans with high deductibles of at least $1,000 per person, their healthcare spending dropped, researchers say.

The study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care, found after families switched to the high-deductible plans their health spending dropped an average of 14 percent when compared to families in health plans with lower deductibles -- but they cut back on preventive care such as childhood vaccines, cancer screenings and routine tests for diabetes.

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"We discovered that costs go down dramatically during the first year people are enrolled in high-deductible health plans, as long as the deductible is at least $1,000 per person," study co-author Amelia M. Haviland, a statistician at the RAND Corp., a non-profit research organization, says in a statement. "But we also found concerning reductions in use of preventive care. This suggests people are cutting both necessary and unnecessary care."

The study involved 800,000 U.S. families insured during 2004 and 2005 through one of 53 large employers, with about half of the employers offering a high-deductible or consumer-directed health plan.

"We saw that patients reduced preventive care, and if this persists, it is likely to have health consequences in the future," Haviland says. "These cutbacks could cause a spike in healthcare costs down the road if people end up sicker and need more-intensive treatment."

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