Magazine article Workforce Management

Insurers Blend Consumerism, Limited Access

Magazine article Workforce Management

Insurers Blend Consumerism, Limited Access

Article excerpt

HEALTH CARE BENEFITS

Some health insurers have begun to combine aspects of consumer-driven care and restricted access by offering high-deductible health plans that use a less expensive but more limited network of health providers that are part of health maintenance organizations.

Beginning in January, Kaiser Permanente customers will have access to a high-deductible health plan in California, where the company is based and has the bulk of its membership. Earlier this year Kaiser launched a high-deductible plan paired with a health savings account in other regions.

Aetna began offering high-deductible health plans on its HMO network in a limited number of regions where it operates. By year's end, the insurer plans to offer the product in 21 of the 28 states where it operates.

The two companies say that in general, their new products offer the prospect of lower premiums associated with HMO plans while making consumers more sensitive to cost through high deductibles.

"Employers definitely want this," says Kaiser spokeswoman Beverly Hayon.

Beyond satisfying a demand for lower premiums, health insurance companies will benefit from the new arrangement. Since high-deductible plans pay for most of the cost of health care after the deductible is met, health plans that can pay doctors less will save money and pass those savings on to employers in the form of lower premiums.

"The risk the carrier has is reduced for a large amount of claims," says Tim Padva, president of CheckPoint HR, which administers benefits.

Whether it will become another emerging trend on the frontier of health care consumerism is an open question. Cigna does not offer such a plan, spokesman Joe Mondy says. At UnitedHealth Group, customers can choose whether they want to use an HMO or preferred provider organization network, the most common choice, for their highdeductible plans. …

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