Courtesy of CT-N

HARTFORD, CT — It was the fourth task force meeting, but Dr. Gregory Shangold felt he had heard enough to say high-deductible health plans are “a serious impediment to the delivery of healthcare.”

Shangold, a member of the High Deductible Health Plan Task Force, said they should spend the next two months recommending solutions to the legislature to “counteract the deleterious effects of high-deductible health plans.”

“I think this just solidifies the work that we’re all here for,” Shangold said of his proposed resolution.

However, in a room full of different interests, not everyone on the task force felt the same way. The resolution highlighted the tensions among the groups on the task force.

Susan Halpin, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, said Shangold’s resolution “pre-supposes an outcome that we haven’t come to.”

She said it actually works against the goal of trying to establish consensus.

Dr. Daniel Freess, past president of the CT College of Emergency Physicians, said the sentiment of the resolution is an acknowledgement that time is running out.

“We really need to focus on finding answers and starting having discussions about consensus,” Freess added.

Janice Perkins, director of government relations for ConnectiCare, said there’s a way to structure the next few meetings to get to a consensus without Shangold’s resolution.

“I don’t think we’ve gone down that path enough to conclude we’re not making progress or that this committee needs focus,” Perkins said.

The medical doctors are upset that these high-deductible plans have forced them to become collection agencies and forced their patients to avoid care that’s unaffordable. High-deductible plans help reduce premiums, but have forced patients to pay more out of pocket for their care when they need it. 

Insurance industry executives have said high-deductible plans help them keep their premiums low.

Halpin continues to warn the task force about “unintended consequences.”

James Stirling of Stirling Benefits told the task force, “Your challenge of looking at high-deductible health plans cannot exist in the absence of looking at the broader market.”

Stirling’s comments followed remarks by Kevin McKechnie, executive director of HSA Council, who spoke about Health Savings Accounts.

Stirling said for people with higher incomes, HSAs provide an opportunity to moderate high-deductible plans. “But high-deductible health plans by themselves have not contributed, at least for a significant part of a population, to an improvement in health and access in care,” he said.

He said for an employee making $50,000 to $60,000 a year and trying to raise two kids, a $5,000 individual deductible and a $10,000 family deductible is almost like saying “I ain’t got insurance.”

The task force is trying to figure out how to help those types of consumers.

“I think we’ve heard four presentations now and they’ve all described issues with the high-deductible health plans,” Shangold said. “We don’t have a solution that we’ve committed to yet on the table.”

There are only four meetings left before the report to the legislature has to be written. The report is due Feb. 1.

It’s unclear if the resolution will be raised next week at the group’s Dec. 4 meeting.