Switching to high deductible health plans tied to diabetes complications

Switching to a high-deductible health plan was tied to higher likelihood of diabetes complications, a study published March 22 in JAMA Open Network found. 

The study examined outcomes for 42,326 adults with diabetes who switched from a standard to high-deductible health plan, because their employer offered no other option, between 2010 and 2019. The study also examined 202,729 who did not switch health plans. High-deductible health plans were defined by the study as having deductibles higher than $1,400 annually for an individual and $2,800 for families. 

The study found those enrolled in high-deductible health plans were slightly more likely to have myocardial infarction, stroke, and to be hospitalized for heart failure than those with a standard plan. 

Members enrolled in HDHPs were 2.35 times more likely to have end-stage kidney disease, 2.23 times as likely to have lower-extremity complications and 2.28 times more likely to need treatment for retinopathy. 

Previous research found high-deductible health plans were linked to higher rates of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia among those with diabetes. 

"These findings reinforce the potential harm associated with HDHPs for people with diabetes and the importance of affordable and accessible chronic disease management, which is hindered by high out-of-pocket costs incurred by HDHPs," the study's authors concluded. 

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, OptumLabs, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and more. Read the full study here. 

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