With High Deductibles, Men Don't Go For Emergency Care

Here's one of the really bad reasons to have a high deductible policy: when the premium rises, men don't go to the hospital for emergencies.

According to The New York Times, "Men, it turns out, are more likely to delay treatment for serious conditions under high-deductible plans, in contrast to women, who tend to be more selective and cut back care for minor ailments only."

"Such plans generally have lower monthly premiums than traditional health plans but higher out-of-pocket costs — sometimes, $4,000 or $5,000 for a family, or even higher," Ann Carrns writes. About a third of workers now have such plans. And that number is likely to grow, since lower-cost plans on the new health care marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are likely to have relatively high deductibles.  

I have that kind of policy, too.  Only, in my case, since I tend to go to the doctor when I need to (my husband calls me a hypochondriac), we wind up with outrageous medical bills we usually have to pay off in installments.

But the damage can be worse when you don't go. The study compared emergency room visits for about 12,000 people — roughly half men and half women — for a year before, and two years after, they were involuntarily switched by their employers to a high-deductible plan, Carrns reports.

For the first year after the switch, men’s use of the E.R. dropped for just about everything, including severe conditions, like irregular heartbeat. 

“It’s concerning that men were not going to the E.R.” for ailments like kidney stones and irregular heartbeats, Katy Kozhimannil, a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s school of public health and a study author, told Carrns. “That’s an urgent situation that requires medical care.”        

Consider this situation.  Your husband is having a hard time breathing and his right arm hurts. But he brushes it off as muscle pain.  He could very well be having a heart attack and ignoring it could lead to his death.

Men with high deductibles ended up with more hospitalizations in subsequent years, suggesting that they may have let a serious condition go untreated.        

Carrns says one of the factors men don't go for emergency care, besides money, could be “masculinity beliefs” that "make it harder for men to ask for help," Kozhimannil told Carrns, and the added worry of spending more on health care may reinforce that tendency.

Unfortunately, my husband hasn't seen a doctor in 10 years for a physical or just about much of anything else.  (He's in the medical profession so that explains some of it.)  And he has NO health insurance at all.  At 64, he's gambling with his life, and I know that very well.

I'm the one with the high-deductible plan.  A combination of breast cancer and age bracket shot my premium into the stratosphere.  It's still there.  But so am I.  


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