Insurers' high-deductible plans leave many without needed care

Commentary: study shows more Americans entering ranks of the underinsured
by Wendell Potter
Center for Public Integrity May 18, 2015

A dozen or so years ago, a small group of wealthy corporate insurance executives decided their customers were not paying nearly enough for the medical care they received. How else to explain the fact that managed care — which they had touted as a silver bullet just a decade earlier — had failed miserably at controlling health care costs.

Those executives came to embrace as the newest silver bullet a strategy incubated at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based libertarian think tank that advocates for fewer government regulations and more individual responsibility. The strategy that emerged in the early 2000s was what the insurance industry called consumer driven health plans — CDHPs for short. These plans are superficially appealing because the premiums are lower.  But that obscures a defining and central feature of CDHPs: a requirement that folks enrolled in them, regardless of income, pay a substantial sum from their wallets for medical care every year before their insurance coverage kicks in.  

In some ways at least, CDHPs are about less insurance. With every passing year, under the industry’s strategy, insurance companies would be paying a smaller percentage of medical claims while their customers would be paying more because of the high deductibles.