High-deductible plan enrollees less likely to receive substance use treatment: study

Enrollees in high-deductible health plans are less likely to receive treatment for substance use disorder than those with traditional plans, a new study published in the American Journal of Managed Care found. 

The study, published Oct. 5, analyzed OptumLabs claims data from 2007 to 2017 to compare individuals offered a high-deductible plan to those with a traditional option. Read more about the methodology here.

The study's authors, affiliated with Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, OptumLabs, Ithaca, N.Y.-based Cornell University and Cambridge, Mass-based Harvard University, found that those with high-deductible plans were 6.6 percent less likely to access treatment for substance use disorder. 

"Although small in magnitude, these estimates are clinically relevant because [substance use disorder] is vastly undertreated," the study's authors wrote. 

Research cited in the study indicates high-deductible plans reduce healthcare spending, but higher deductibles can lead members to forego care. 

The study's authors wrote that movement toward high-deductible health plans could be "exacerbating" undertreatment of substance use disorder. 

Read the full study here.

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