A recent Health Affairs study found most respondents think price shopping for care is important, but only 13% of respondents said they researched out-of-pocket costs before getting care.
Those who researched out-of-pocket costs did so mostly by calling the provider (63%). One-quarter used a health plan, employer or public website and 9% called their health plan.
Only 3% of those surveyed said they compared healthcare costs by provider before receiving care.
For healthcare consumerism to work, patients need to research and compare healthcare costs. The idea is that Americans shopping for the most cost-effective care will lower costs.
Out-of-pocket spending for U.S. patients rose 41% from 2010 to 2014, mostly because of the proliferation of high-deductible health plans, according to the authors. One-third of Americans with employer-based health insurance are on a high-deductible plan. The most popular Affordable Care Act exchanges health plans have average deductibles of more than $5,000, the study noted.
Though healthcare consumerism and high-deductible plans are supposed to prompt patients to search for cost-effective care, the survey found that many still don’t shop around for care.
The study surveyed nearly 3,000 adults who received healthcare over the past year and paid some out-of-pocket for care. The study showed that many Americans are not taking the time to research cost data, particularly out-of-pocket costs.
Study authors found that one barrier to getting healthcare price data is that people need to track down the information and they are concerned about disrupting relationships with providers. The study authors said “simply passing price transparency laws or regulations (as over half of states have done) appears insufficient to facilitate price shopping.”
The study authors suggested the healthcare system can do a better job making the data more accessible and understandable. Two possible areas to focus on are physical therapy and lab tests/imaging services. The survey found that patients who sought out-of-pocket cost data did so the most for physical therapy (24%) and lab tests/imaging services (11%).
“Price information must be more accessible and comprehensible to patients. However, our results show that even if the information were more easily accessible, patients’ preferences to maintain provider relationships and efforts to coordinate care would limit overall rates of shopping. Efforts to encourage price shopping may need to be targeted to selected clinical contexts that are suitable for shopping,” they wrote.