CDHPs cost employees less than PPOs, new study suggests

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While adoption of consumer-driven health plans by employers continues to increase, the perceived risk of CDHP’s high deductibles still makes employees hesitant to switch from the traditional PPO. However, such fears may be unfounded, according to Change Healthcare, a health care cost transparency and engagement company.

Over the past two years, the number of employers offering CDHPs has risen from 17% to 22%, according to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. Among jumbo and large employers, the percentages are significantly higher — 59% and 36%, respectively. However, only 13% of employees who have the option are actually enrolled in a CDHP, Mercer reports.

“It’s no surprise that employers, both large and small, are increasingly adopting consumer-directed health plans: the plan designs save them an average of 20% on health benefits per year compared to traditional plans,” states Change Healthcare.  “What may be surprising is that employees can also realize significant savings when shifting to a CDHP — without sacrificing quality or convenience.”

Change Healthcare’s conclusion is based on a case study that shows 91% of employees with families and 65% of employees overall would have spent less in a plan year — when taking into consideration premiums and out-of-pocket expenses — under a CDHP design than with the Preferred Provider Organization plan offered. Specifically, families would have averaged $140 per month in premium and out-of-pocket savings, while employees overall would have saved $55 per month.

In comparison, 10% of covered members in the PPO plan had out-of-pocket expenses that alone were equal to or greater than the deductible for the CDHP option, the research indicated.

“Our analysis shows that, in fact, CDHPs can help employees control their health care costs, while improving their health,” says Change Healthcare president and CEO Douglas Ghertner.

Savings are even greater when health plan members are able to use a cost transparency tool such as Change Healthcare’s Transparency Messenger to compare costs and shop for care within their network, Ghertner notes. In this case study, it is estimated that the savings for members overall would have increased from $55 to $118 per month, while the savings for families would have increased from $140 to $201 per month.

Change Healthcare’s findings and conclusions are contained in a new white paper available on the company’s website.

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