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Californians with high-deductible health plans more likely to delay treatment Posted: November 1st, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has issued a report profiling health insurance in California. Of the 32 million insured California residents, approximately 3 million use high-deductible health plans. These policies may require participants to pay up to $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses before health insurance coverage begins.

According to the report, low-income families were more likely to rely on high-deductible plans, which have lower premiums than other health insurance options. However, 20 percent of those with high-deductible coverage report delaying medical treatment because of the cost. That compares to 17 percent of participants in health plans without high deductibles who have delayed treatment for the same reason.

High-deductible plans are intended to work in conjunction with health savings accounts (HSAs). These accounts allow individuals to set aside money tax-free to pay their deductible, but the UCLA report indicates that up to 80 percent of those with high-deductible health insurance do not have a HSAs.

In 2014, health insurance exchanges will be available, as required by federal health reform. At that time, annual deductibles will be capped at $2,000 per individual or $4,000 per family. Dylan Roby, lead author of the UCLA report, noted in a statement, "The insurance exchanges may offer a lifeline to individuals and families by establishing reasonable out-of-pocket maximums for families to pay."