Benefit Design Innovations: Implications for Consumer-Directed Health Care

Publication Date: February 2007

Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Ha T. Tu; Paul B. Ginsburg

Research Area: Health

Type: Brief


Current health insurance benefit designs that simply rely on higher, one-size-fits-all patient cost sharing have limited potential to curb rapidly rising costs, but innovations in benefit design can potentially make cost sharing a more effective tool, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Innovative benefit designs include incentives to encourage healthy behaviors; incentives that vary by service type, patient condition or enrollee income; and incentives to use efficient providers. But most applications of these innovative designs are not widespread, suggesting that any significant cost impact is many years off. Moreover, regulations governing high-deductible, consumer-directed health plans eligible for health savings accounts (HSAs) preclude some promising benefit design innovations and dilute the incentives in others. A movement away from a one-size-fits-all HSA benefit structure toward a more flexible design might broaden the appeal of HSA plans and enable them to incorporate features that promote cost-effective care.