High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) require substantial out-of-pocket spending for most services, although medications may be subject to traditional copayment arrangements. This study examined effects of HDHPs on medication out-of-pocket spending and use and quality of care among individuals with bipolar disorder.
This quasi-experimental study used claims data (2003-2014) for a national sample of 3,532 members with bipolar disorder, ages 12-64, continuously enrolled for 1 year in a low-deductible plan (≤$500) and then for 1 year in an HDHP (≥$1,000) after an employer-mandated switch. HDHP members were matched to 18,923 contemporaneous individuals in low-deductible plans (control group). Outcome measures were out-of-pocket spending and use of bipolar disorder medications, psychotropics for other disorders, and all other medications and appropriate laboratory monitoring for psychotropics.
Relative to the control group, annual out-of-pocket spending per person for bipolar disorder medications increased 20.8% among HDHP members (95% confidence interval [CI]=14.9%-26.7%), and the absolute increase was $36 (95% CI=$25.9-$45.2). Specifically, out-of-pocket spending increased for antipsychotics (27.1%; 95% CI=17.4%-36.7%) and anticonvulsants (19.2%; 95% CI=11.9%-26.6%) but remained stable for lithium (-3.7%; 95% CI=-12.2% to 4.8%). No statistically significant changes were detected in use of bipolar disorder medications, other psychotropics, or all other medications or in appropriate laboratory monitoring for bipolar disorder medications.
HDHP members with bipolar disorder experienced a moderate increase in out-of-pocket spending for medications but preserved bipolar disorder medication use. Findings may reflect individuals' perceptions of the importance of these medications for their functioning and well-being.