some are pinning their hopes on a relatively new idea—consumer-directed health plans, which link high-deductible health insurance plans with tax-favored accounts. The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) December 2008 policy forum, titled “Outlook for Consumer/Patient Engagement in Health Care—30 Years into the Experiment, ” took a detailed look at consumer-directed health plans and related issues. TWO VIEWS OF CONSUMER-DIRECTED PLANS: Policy forum participants heard two very different presentations on the prospects for consumer-directed plans. One speaker was optimistic, saying consumer-directed plans have worked because individuals in these plans have substituted less expensive care for more expensive care in order to minimize their out-of-pocket costs. Another speaker was skeptical, saying consumerism will have a “marginal impact ” but will not solve the problem of rising health care costs. OTHER ISSUES DISCUSSED AT THE POLICY FORUM: In addition to the two views about consumer-directed plans: • An official of Deere & Company described how the company put a consumer-directed plan into effect. The official said that Deere replaced its existing health options with a consumer-directed plan following an extensive 18-month period of explaining the reasons for the change to employees, training employees to better understand health care decisions and costs, and also providing more employee and family health and wellness resources
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