Are Patients Able to be Smart Shoppers While Also Optimizing their Health?

Portrait of Dr.NeerajSchool of Pharmacy Associate Professor Neeraj Sood, who is also director of international programs at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, has been awarded a $927,059 grant from the NIH Common Fund to support research focusing on consumer directed health plans.

Specifically, Sood will estimate the long term effects of consumer-directed health plans on use of primary and secondary preventive services and the impact these plans have on consumer price shopping for preventive services. Typically, these plans are lower cost but come with higher deductibles for some services and are often paired with health savings accounts. Consumer-directed health plans have been on the rise over the past decade and today account for some 13% of all employer-sponsored health plans.

Incentives are shifted in these plans with patients substantially more motivated to approach them as shoppers, not just patients. While these plans offer complete coverage for some primary preventive services, such as cancer screenings and cholesterol testing, they require the patient to fully cover secondary preventive measures, such as medications for diabetes, until the deductible, which is usually high, is met.

“As far as we know, this project would be the first to comprehensively estimate the long term effects of consumer-directed health plans on use of preventive services,” said Sood. “We’ll look at whether these lead to greater price ‘price-shopping’ for preventive services and whether they prevent patients from getting the care they need.”

Findings from this project will provide data to policy makers and insurers on health plan designs that keep costs down while optimizing health outcomes.