Assessing the impact of high deductible health plans on health-care utilization and cost: A changes-in-changes approach

Bijan J. Borah, Marguerite E. Burns, Nilay D. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


High deductible health plans (HDHPs) have become an increasingly common form of benefit design used by employers to manage health-care costs. Numerous studies have evaluated the uptake and impact of HDHPs on health-care utilization. Most studies have employed the standard difference-in-differences (DID) methodology. In this paper, we employ three alternative methodologies to evaluate a natural experiment in which a traditional health plan was fully replaced by a HDHP. We implement the standard DID and the quantile difference-in-differences (QDID) estimators to evaluate the impact of the HDHP on following six outcomes: overall cost, medical cost, pharmacy cost, outpatient visit count, inpatient visit count and emergency room visit count. We compare these results to a changes-in-changes (CIC) estimator, a generalized version of the standard (DID) estimator. We find that both the DID and CIC models yielded similar results, while the QDID model provided additional insights on the HDHP impact across different parts of the outcome distributions. Overall, introduction of HDHP had no impact on health-care costs, positive impact on the number of outpatient visits and mixed impacts on the inpatient and emergency room visit counts. The QDID estimates suggest HDHP introduction generally impacted subjects in upper percentiles (50th, 75th and 90th).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1042
Number of pages18
JournalHealth Economics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • average treatment effects
  • changes-in-changes models
  • difference-in- difference models
  • high-deductible health plan
  • quantile difference-in-differences models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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