A new study by Katy B. Kozhimannil, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, and colleagues reveals a sex-specific response to high-deductible health plans (HDHP).

The study, published in Medical Care (2013;51:639-645), followed more than 6,000 men and women before and after their employers mandated a switch from traditional HMO to an HDHP, and found a dramatic decrease in the number of emergency room (ER) visits.

Men reduced ER visits at all severity levels (low, intermediate, and high) by 21.5%-34.4%, whereas women reduced only low severity visits (by 27%). Men also had a 24% decrease in hospitalizations in the first year but a 30% increase in hospitalizations between years 1 and 2.

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Initial across-the-board reductions in ER and hospital care followed by increased hospitalizations “imply that men may have foregone needed care following an HDHP transition,” the authors concluded.