Americans are missing out on preventable steps in fighting illnesses and disease because the high deductible of insurance policies is causing proper diagnosis and treatment to be delayed, according to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs.
The study examined insurance claims from a large national insurer looking at a pool of 316,244 women whose employers had switched the insurance they provided from low-deductible health plans (defined as deductibles of $500 or less) to high-deductible health plans (defined as $1000 or more). The researchers looked at a decade’s worth of data between the years 2004 and 2014.
Many people, including those with Obamacare, had annual deductibles in the range between $5000-$6000. This is how much money the insured had to pay out-of-pocket before their benefits would kick in, and that is in addition to the amount of money they paid for their premiums.
And typically, many insurance policies, including those under Obamacare, would only pay 50% toward coverage after the deductible had been met.
Because the out-of-pocket costs are so high, many insured people are simply avoiding doctor visits and/or follow-up care. Consider that the cost for an MRI could be over $2000. A mammogram could be $1000 or more.
Because of these high out-of-pocket costs, people are delaying diagnostic testing or treatment longer, and sometimes too late.
As a result, many illnesses and diseases that otherwise could have been preventable, are progressing to more advanced stages by the time people finally get examined, diagnosed and treated.
Women with similar low incomes who had health insurance plans with lower deductibles got treatment much earlier for cancer.
The study found that women with high-deductible health plans delayed an average of 1.6 months longer for getting their first breast imaging, 2.7 months to get their first biopsy, a delay of 6.6 months for their first early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and 8.7 months to receive their first chemotherapy treatment.
This is in comparison to other women who also had low income but had health insurance plans with low deductibles.