High-deductible medical plans-a key component of the health savings accounts being espoused by some in Washington, D.C.-could lead to higher debt and lower-quality care for patients, according to a new study.
   The study by The Commonwealth Fund, a health policy research group, found in a survey of 4,000 adults that about half of patients with a high-deductible plan were facing mounting medical debts.
That compared to 31% with similar problems who had more traditional, moderately priced deductibles.
   The survey also found that 38% of adults with high-deductible plans reported experiencing one or more of four cost-related medical care access problems, compared with 27% of those with lower-deductible plans.
   "Health savings accounts coupled with high-deductible health plans have potential pitfalls, especially for families with low incomes or individuals with chronic health conditions, who are at greater risk of accruing burdensome medical debts and facing barriers to needed health care," says Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. "The evidence is that increased patient cost-sharing leads to under use of appropriate care."