Workers Wary of High-Deductible HPs

High-deductible health plans are gaining traction with employers, says one new report on the U.S. benefits landscape. Another report concludes that growth in adoption of these plans has leveled off. Both reports, however, say many workers are not yet sold on the plans.

The 2017 Employee Benefit Trends Report from the Houston-based benefits administrator Empyrean says 80 percent of clients it surveyed now offer high-deductible plans. And 22 percent offer such a plan as the only option for medical coverage — the so-called “full replacement” strategy.

The latest report by PwC’s Health Research Institute offers a different perspective. Authors of Medical Cost Trend: Behind The Numbers 2018 conclude that the move to HDHPs “may be plateauing.”

The evidence: First, the share of employers that have adopted a full-replacement strategy has been flat for the last three years,” according to PwC’s 2017 survey of major U.S. companies.

In a second sign of trouble for HDHPs, the survey finds only 28 percent of companies are considering a full-replacement strategy in the next three years, down from 44 percent in 2014.

Both reports note that many workers remain leery of HDHPs.

“Though consumer-driven plans are becoming more common among employers, HR teams may find it difficult to communicate the advantages of these options to their workforces,” write authors of the Empyrean report. Employees who are accustomed to traditional PPO and HMO plans “may instead disregard these plans as corner-cutting by their employer.”

The PwC  report reaches a similar conclusion, noting that workers recognize that HDHPs mean higher-out-of-pocket costs.

Calling HDHPs “a plan design that has proven largely unpopular with consumers,” the report cites a PwC consumer survey to demonstrate the point. That survey found 69 percent of HDHP participants“ likely would choose a different plan type next year if it’s available, even if it means making a higher monthly premium contribution.” The survey also found that 72 percent of consumers who are not participating in a high-deductible plan say they are not likely to choose one in the future.