The strategy of pushing the first $1,200 or more of high-deductible health plan costs onto members in the form of increased deductibles has the potential to backfire. The plan design seems to have a built-in disincentive for seeking preventive care or managing chronic health conditions when health costs are lowest. Facing financial pressure in today's economy, plan members must decide if they will pay for a doctor's visit before the deductible is met, hope the health problem resolves on its own, or delay care. This is a "pay more later" gamble for the employer and employee.

A January 2012 study by Harvard researchers in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that families with high-deductible health plans tend to delay health care more than those with traditional coverage because of cost. Financially, high-deductible plans can strap families, according to the study. Those most at risk of having to make a choice between other necessities or needed health care are low-income families and those facing chronic health conditions.

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