Consumer-driven health care research findings released

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL--In the state known as the birthplace of health maintenance organizations, researchers are taking a close look at another option to control skyrocketing health care costs: consumer-driven health plans. Preliminary research at the University of Minnesota has indicated that consumer-driven plans may have higher employer premium payments. But the findings also have refuted the fear of healthy people flocking to one plan and people who often use healthcare choosing another.

Stephen Parente and Jon Christianson at the university's Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis and Roger Feldman at the School of Public Health's Division of Health Services Research and Policy will present their preliminary study results on consumer-driven plans on Monday, Sept. 15, in Washington, D.C., at a policy-makers' conference, "Consumer-Driven Health Care: Evidence from the Field," sponsored by AcademyHealth, the national program office for health care financing and organization supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In consumer-driven plans, employers allot an employee a given amount of money toward personal care or a health spending account to spend, at his or her discretion, on health care needs. By using this account to purchase health care services, employees become directly involved in health care decision-making. The plans also provide information on physician and hospital performance and procedure costs to help consumers use their money wisely. Unused funds roll over into the next year's pool, creating a greater amount the employee could spend.

Parente, Christianson and Feldman's studies focus on Minneapolis-based Definity Health, which is offered by the University of Minnesota and several other Minnesota companies. By examining preliminary data provided by some of the employers who offer Definity as an employee health care option, researchers learned that Definity was not disproportionately chosen by the young and the

Contact: Deane Morrison
University of Minnesota

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