Cost Sharing or Cost Shifting?

May 12, 2015

A recent New York Times article, With Sickest Patients, Cost Sharing Comes at a Price, examines the impact of cost sharing in our health care system, particularly among patients living with chronic diseases. While the intricacies of the issue are many, the takeaway is clear, and the unintended consequences of cost sharing could ultimately result in a sicker, more expensive population.

Too often, increased cost sharing goes hand in hand with decreased treatment adherence. That said, improved adherence to diabetes medication, for example, could avert 699,000 emergency department visitsand 341,000 hospitalizations annually, for a saving of $4.7 billion. But due to high health care costs, over half of Americans (58%) have forgone certain types of medical care- harming their ability to effectively treat their chronic health problems, and often times furthering the severity of their condition. With the changing landscape of health care in the state exchanges, the last thing a patient struggling daily with one or more chronic diseases needs is another challenge in their medical care.

One could certainly argue that while the growth in health care spending might be down for now, the longer term results of cost sharing will more than likely result in far higher rates of costly chronic disease. There is great value in prevention, but there is work to be done to ensure that patients are able to access and afford quality providers and treatments.