More people get health screenings when deductibles are waived

A study in the journal Health Services Research may give chiropractors and other wellness professionals an added incentive to offer free health screenings.Chiropractic screening

Researchers from the RAND Corporation found that people get health screenings if their insurance deductibles are waived; that is, when they don’t have to pay out of pocket for them.

The study analyzed preventive screening use among 44,106 people enrolled in preferred provider organizations, or PPOs. Over a six-year period, these plans initiated deductible-free coverage of four tests — lipid screening, mammography, fecal occult blood testing, and Pap smears — which reduced, but did not eliminate participants’ out-of-pocket costs. In general, these costs ranged from $10 to $30 per test.

The researchers found that people underwent screening more often after the tests became deductible-free, while rates were unchanged among a control group of more than 60,000 participants in plans whose coverage did not extend.

When they looked at the extended-coverage group more closely, the researchers found a significantly greater increase in screening among people in low-deductible than high-deductible plans.

The findings “open the door to examining the effect of deductible-free coverage on use of other preventive services, such as tobacco cessation and weight loss programs,” said M. Courtney Hughes, PhD, founder of Approach Health, LLC, an insurance consulting company.

Although it’s highly unlikely that insurance companies will waive deductibles for chiropractic screenings, DCs and other alternative practitioners can see from this study the advantage of making free wellness screenings available to the public. Often, the preliminary screening can provide enough information to create an interest in wellness or chiropractic care and reveal potential health issues that chiropractors could address.

SOURCE: “Coverage and preventive screening,” by Meeker D, et al. Health Service Research online, 2010.

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