MINNEAPOLIS — As high-deductible health insurance becomes more common in the United States, it may be causing men to make fewer trips to the emergency room — even when they have dangerous conditions such as kidney stones or heart trouble.

Men whose employers switched to such policies cut their ER use by nearly 20 percent the first year they were covered, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and at Harvard Medical School.

They said it was “concerning” that ER use dropped just as sharply for severe conditions — such as an irregular heartbeat — as for minor conditions, such as a sore throat.

“Men who transition to (high-deductible plans) may forgo needed care in the immediate term, resulting in delays or increased severity of illness when care is later sought,” they wrote. The study was published in the online journal Medical Care.

Women scaled back ER visits for minor complaints but not for severe conditions, according to the study.

The study adds to a growing debate over whether raising consumers’ out-of-pocket health care costs leads people to scale back unnecessary doctor visits, as intended, or to skip needed medical care.

— Ashley Griffin, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune