Healthcare consumers are not asking providers for price information about healthcare or medical procedures, according to a new Bucknell Institute for Policy Policy (BIPP) national poll.
Slightly more than one-quarter of respondents said they requested cost information from providers.
Respondents were most likely to request price information for doctor’s visits, outpatient services, screening/diagnostic tests, prescription drugs and dental care. Respondents were least likely to request price information for hospitalizations.
YouGov completed the BIPP survey of 1,200 Americans last month. The survey found that insured Americans are more likely to request price data than those without insurance (29% compared to 19%). Also, lower income families were less likely to request prices than higher-income families (23% compared to 33%), which BIPP suggested might be linked to education levels.
BIPP found having some college education or more “increases the likelihood of asking for healthcare prices by roughly 10 percentage points over the persons with a high school degree or less.” Those with postgraduate degrees were also about nine percentage points more likely to request pricing data than those with four-year degrees.
A worrying finding is that Americans who actually shop for healthcare prices reported not being able to get the information. Nearly one-quarter who said they price shop for healthcare did not receive the information they needed from providers.
The new survey differs from another recent survey that found 77% of healthcare consumers said it’s important or very important to know costs before treatment. The HealthFirst Financial Patient Survey said cost and financing information is especially crucial for millennials.
Amy Wolaver, an economics professor and director of BIPP, said the results of the latest survey are important considering more Americans are enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). “Proponents of high deductible plans argue that they will help slow the growth in healthcare costs by having consumers have more ‘skin in the game’ with respect to their healthcare. This theory only works if consumers do seek prices and are able to find and use that price information,” said Wolaver.
Employers and payers have increasingly turned to HDHPs as a way to contain healthcare costs, but as the survey found patients are often not taking advantage of cost data to help them make wiser healthcare choices. Even more troubling is that patients interested in this data aren’t getting it.
Health plan premiums have seen increases over the past decade, but benefit design like HDHPs have led to skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs. If HDHPs are going to help lower costs, health plans and providers will need to offer this cost and quality information to patients. Otherwise, HDHPs are simply a benefit design that passes more utilization costs onto individuals and families and doesn’t make them better healthcare consumers.