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March 14, 2007

High-Deductible Health Plans and Emergency Department Use

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, University of California, Los Angeles (Dr Grudzen); and RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif, and UCLA Center for Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles (Dr Brook).

JAMA. 2007;297(10):1126-1127. doi:10.1001/jama.297.10.1126

In this issue of JAMA, Wharam and colleagues1 report findings from an observational study that assesses the relationship between transition to a high-deductible health plan and use of emergency departments (EDs). The authors use a sophisticated administrative data set, a large sample of patients enrolled in a modern employer-sponsored health plan, and impeccable health services research methods. Their major conclusion is that individuals whose health insurance coverage was switched to a high-deductible health plan, compared with those in a traditional health maintenance organization, reduced overall ED visits by about 10%, mainly for conditions of low and indeterminate severity.

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