Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Few people "shop" for health care

Can encouraging people to price-compare on health procedures lower the cost of health care? We hear this all the time, yet two studies done at Harvard show that few people actually do this.

Published in Health Affairs (Aug), the two studies addressed the notion that by giving people "skin in the game" with high deductibles and copays will cause patients to choose lower-priced health providers--and thus drive prices down.

Ooops--turns out reality is more complicated.

One study looked at use of a cost comparison tool--offering the tool did not move the needle downward.

The second study, a national survey, showed that while a majority liked the idea of cost comparing, only 3% actually did it.

In fact, only 13% had even asked about costs before receiving care. Still, they did not believe the highest cost providers were necessarily the best.

So why not compare? Seventy-seven percent did not want to switch doctors to get a lower cost.

I would guess not only do people not want to switch docs based on price, health plans with networks might preclude it.

So much for this "competition" idea we hear so often. Do you really want to think you are finding the cheapest doctor available?

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