Evaluation of High-Deductible Health Plans and Acute Glycemic Complications among Adults with Diabetes

David H. Jiang, Jeph Herrin, Holly K. Van Houten, Rozalina G. McCoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Optimal diabetes care requires regular monitoring and care to maintain glycemic control. How high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), which reduce overall spending but may impede care by increasing out-of-pocket expenses, are associated with risks of severe hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia is unknown. Objective: To examine the association between an employer-forced switch to HDHP and severe hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study used deidentified administrative claims data for privately insured adults with diabetes from a single insurance carrier with multiple plans across the US between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2018. Analyses were conducted between May 15, 2020, and November 3, 2022. Exposures: Patients with 1 baseline year of enrollment in a non-HDHP whose employers subsequently forced a switch to an HDHP were compared with patients who did not switch. Main Outcomes and Measures: Mixed-effects logistic regression models were used to examine the association between switching to an HDHP and the odds of severe hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia (ascertained using diagnosis codes in emergency department [ED] visits and hospitalizations), adjusting for patient age, sex, race and ethnicity, region, income, comorbidities, glucose-lowering medications, baseline ED and hospital visits for hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and baseline deductible amount, and applying inverse propensity score weighting to account for potential treatment selection bias. Results: The study population was composed of 42326 patients who switched to an HDHP (mean [SD] age: 52 [10] years, 19752 [46.7%] women, 7375 [17.4%] Black, 5740 [13.6%] Hispanic, 26572 [62.8%] non-Hispanic White) and 202729 patients who did not switch (mean [SD] age, 53 [10] years, 89828 [44.3%] women, 29551 [14.6%] Black, 26689 [13.2%] Hispanic, 130843 [64.5%] non-Hispanic White). When comparing all study years, switching to an HDHP was not associated with increased odds of experiencing at least 1 hypoglycemia-related ED visit or hospitalization (OR, 1.01 [95% CI, 0.95-1.06]; P =.85), but each year of HDHP enrollment did increase these odds by 2% (OR, 1.02 [95% CI, 1.00-1.04]; P =.04). In contrast, switching to an HDHP did significantly increase the odds of experiencing at least 1 hyperglycemia-related ED visit or hospitalization (OR, 1.25 [95% CI, 1.11-1.42]; P <.001), with each year of HDHP enrollment increasing the odds by 5% (OR, 1.05 [95% CI, 1.01-1.09]; P =.02). Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, employer-forced switching to an HDHP was associated with increased odds of potentially preventable acute diabetes complications, potentially because of delayed or deferred care. These findings suggest that employers should be more judicious in their health plan offerings, and health plans and policy makers should consider allowing preventive and high-value services to be exempt from deductible requirements..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2250602
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluation of High-Deductible Health Plans and Acute Glycemic Complications among Adults with Diabetes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this