Income a factor in use of health services under HSA health plan: 5 findings

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Certain types of healthcare services were avoided by low-income workers who switched to a high-deductible health savings account plan as opposed to high-income workers with the same plan, according a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

EBRI's study looked at enrollment information, insurance claims and worker income from a large manufacturing employer with employees throughout the U.S from 2009 to 2014. Between 150,000 and 200,000 individuals under the age of 65 were included in the study.

Here are five study findings.

1. Across all income levels, the HSA health plan was associated with fewer outpatient office visits. However, this decline was more than twice as large for workers with incomes lower than $50,000 annually compared to those with incomes of at least $100,000 annually.

2. A decline in visits to specialists reflected most of the decline in outpatient service use among lower-income workers.

3. Lower-income HSA policyholders were less likely to receive preventive services — like influenza vaccinations — than their higher-income counterparts.

4. In contrast, HSA health plan members with lower incomes exhibited higher visits to emergency departments and inpatient hospital admissions than their higher-income counterparts.   

5. At all income levels, HSA health plan members showed a decline in the number of prescription drugs filled, according to the report.

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