When American workers engage in healthy habits offered in consumer-driven health plans, they can lower their total medical costs an average of $9,700 per employee over a five-year period, according to a recent study.

The Sixth Annual Cigna Choice Fund Experience Study shows 1.1 million individuals enrolled in Cigna's consumer-driven health plan, Choice Fund, lowered their costs without compromising care by becoming more active, engaged and informed consumers.

According to the study, when compared to customers in traditional PPO and HMO plans, those in a CDHP:

  • Lowered their health risks: CDHP participants lowered their risk of developing or worsening a chronic condition. When employers fully transitioned to offering only a CDHP option, individuals improved their health risk profile by 10% in the first year compared to customers in a traditional plan option, according to the study.
  • Reduced total medical costs: Cigna CDHP medical cost trend was 16% lower than traditional plans during the first year. Over five years cumulative cost savings averaged $9,700 per employee enrolled in a CDHP compared to employees who remained in a traditional health plan. Most importantly cost reductions were achieved without employers shifting out-of-pocket health expenses to their employees.
  • Received higher levels of care: CDHP participants had consistent or higher use of more than 400 evidenced-based medical best practices (than their counterparts in traditional plans). They also sought preventive care, such as annual office visits and mammograms, more frequently than customers enrolled in a traditional plan.
  • Were more engaged in health improvement: They were more likely to have completed a health risk assessment and participated in the health coaching program than those enrolled in a traditional plan.
  • Were more savvy consumers of health care: CDHP customers enrolled in the pharmacy management program were more likely to choose generic medications and had 14% lower pharmacy costs compared to those in a traditional plan. In addition, they used the emergency room at a 13% lower rate than individuals enrolled in HMO and PPO plans.
  • They are more likely to compare cost and quality: Consumer-directed plan members were twice as likely to use myCigna.com online cost and quality information to help them select a doctor or to review potential medical costs than customers enrolled in traditional plans.

“Each year the evidence increasingly shows that properly designed consumer-driven health plans can lower health risks, reduce medical costs and drive engagement,” says Dr. Alan Muney, Cigna chief medical officer. “The data once again shows that the combination of incentives, easy-to-engage health programs, and consumer decision support tools can improve health while reducing costs.”

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