The Employee Benefit Research Institute conducts a variety of very useful research and has been one of the best reporters of details on the burgeoning high-deductible health plan market. In its latest report, it gives details on the characteristics of the population enrolled in these plans versus those who are in more traditional plans during the period 2005 to 2011. (EBRI Report) According to EBRI, about 21 million individuals were in a CDHP plan in 2011. About half the population in these plans are women and half men over the time period, but currently 44% are men and 56% women, which may reflect that more men than women lost jobs in the current recession. These enrollees are slightly less likely to be married than those with traditional insurance. In general, they are slightly older than people in traditional plans, contrary to the perception that CDHP is oriented toward younger workers.
Over the entire time period, people in CDHPs were more likely to be in higher-income groups, which makes sense because to the extent that members have a choice, people who think they can afford the greater out-of-pocket payments may be more comfortable with CDHPs. The most striking difference may be in education, where people in high-deductible plans were twice as likely to have a college degree. This may be correlated with income differences, to some extent, but may also reflect a greater confidence in the more educated population that it understands and can manage health care needs. CDHP enrollees may have slightly better self-reported health status, but are no less likely to report an actual health problem or chronic health condition. They do exhibit better health behaviors. As more and more people are enrolled in these plans, differences between that group and those in traditional health plans are likely to disappear.