Questions for Robin Cohen, Ph.D. and Lead Author of “High-deductible Health Plan Enrollment Among Adults Aged 18-64 With Employment-based Insurance Coverage”
Q: What made you decide to put together a report about high and low deductible health plans for adults with employment-based coverage?
RC: We decided to produce an analysis focusing on high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) after observing how enrollment in HDHPs has increased over the past decade. In addition, HDHP enrollment growth has been faster among those with employment-based coverage than among those with directly-purchased coverage, so it also made sense to highlight employment-based insurance plans in this study. This report examines differences in the demographic characteristics for those with employment-based coverage by plan type.
Q: Was there a finding in your new report that really surprised you?
RC: It was the dramatic increase in high-deductible health plan (HDHP) enrollment in recent years that really surprised us. We hadn’t expected to see such a large jump, which was most notable among those with a health savings account (HSA). The percentage of adults aged 18 to 64 enrolled in an HDHP with an HSA more than quadrupled in the past decade from 4.2% to 18.9%.
Q: What differences or similarities did you see between or among various demographic groups in this analysis?
RC: Both the differences among age groups and the lack of variance by sex in this study’s findings are notable. Among adults aged 18 to 64 with employment-based coverage, there were no differences in the type of health insurance plan by sex. Enrollment in a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account was higher among adults aged 30 to 44 than those aged 18 to 29 and 45 to 64.
Q: What is the significance of having a health savings account and not having one when you have a high-deductible health insurance plan?
RC: A health savings account (HSA) allows pretax income to be saved to help pay for the higher costs associated with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). However, this report did not examine the association of having an HDHP — coupled with an HSA — on service use and financial burden for medical care.
Q: Is it a choice for Americans to have a health savings account? Can anyone have one?
RC: A health savings account (HSA) must be coupled with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), but not everyone enrolled in an HDHP has an HSA. High-deductible health plans with HSAs are offered to individuals both by employers and in the direct-purchase health insurance market.
Q: What would you say is the take-home message of this report?
RC: I think the real take-home message in this Data Brief is the role that education and income play in health insurance coverage with these types of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). More highly educated and affluent adults were more likely to enroll in an HDHP with a health savings account (HSA) and less likely to enroll in a traditional plan or an HDHP without an HSA — than their less educated and less affluent counterparts. The National Health Interview Survey will continue to monitor different types of private health insurance, and the survey can be used to examine further differences according to plan type.
Q: Do you have trend data on high-deductible health plans going back further than 2007?
RC: No, we don’t have earlier than 2007 trend data on high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). The National Health Interview Survey began to collect data on enrollment in HDHPs starting in 2007.