Individuals Prefer Health Plans Offering More Self Control

October 18, 2007 ( - Most individuals prefer paying a standard, monthly fee and co-payments for preventative tests when they are being reimbursed for the test, rather than a higher-premium plan in which the insurance pays them to have important tests and screenings, according to a recent study

The study of 1,000 respondents by two researchers atPrinceton University ‘s Institute for Advanced Studies found that 58% preferred a standard plan and 42% preferred the payback plan. For the study participants were randomly split into two groups – half were asked to review a prepay plan and the other half, a payback plan.

The other group of respondents was asked to compare the standard plan with a prepay plan where participants pay the same monthly fee but they also prepay the co-pays for routine tests, screenings, etc. If they go to their health care appointments, they are reimbursed; if they don’t, the money is forfeited.

With this scenario, 44% preferred the standard plan and 56% preferred the prepay plan.

“This suggests to us that people like the element of self-control,” said Janet Schwartz, one of the researchers who worked on the study. “Payback is nice and reduces some of the negative emotion produced by having to pay for things that are unpleasant, but it’s not really enough to make the plan more attractive than the standard plan. Pre-payment confronts two issues: one, that people shouldn’t have to add the ‘pain’ of financial loss to the discomfort of having tests; and two, that the prepay plan addresses the issue of self-control. ‘If I don’t go for my mammogram, I lose $50.”