Yes, it has long been argued, but not by me, that patients can be turned into health care consumers if only they have more costs as their responsibility; skin the the game as the “experts” say.
Following is some evidence to the contrary. While the lack of pricing information is blamed as the reason why patients don’t shop around, don’t believe it. If patients were truly motivated about price or shopping they could simply ask. Doc, “I want you to have an MRI.” “I generally use ABC Imaging.” Patient, “Okay, I will call and see their price first.” Yeah, right‼️
You see the truth is (1) patients are much more focused on their health, than price and (2) there is an inherent sense that they should not have to pay for health care at all so don’t bother me with that.
While high deductible health plans save money and lower premiums, it’s not because we have developed savvy consumers, but simply because we have lowered the insurance company’s claim costs. Buying health care is not like buying any other good or service. While an initial office visit may be skipped, even a visit to the ER, or a generic drug taken, the big bucks are elsewhere in health care.
It’s long been argued that if consumers are shopping with their own money, they be savvier in their choices of services and doctors. But a research letter published Tuesday highlights a need for “greater availability of price information” as well as “innovative approaches” to make information easier for consumers to use.
The research letter, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, was based on an Internet-based survey of insured adults who had purchased medical care in the past year. The researchers questioned nearly 2,000 respondents about what factors they considered when making choices. The survey included 1,099 people with high-deductible health plans — those that typically have lower monthly premiums but require individuals to pay more than $1,250 out of pocket before their insurance will kick in — as well as 852 people with more traditional forms of coverage. They found that even when people were responsible for more of their health costs, they weren’t more likely to consider cost or shop around for the best deal on medical treatments.
A majority of people across the board knew that some doctors cost more than others. Even so, only about 10 percent of consumers in each group considered other doctors the last time they bought medical care; and only about 4 percent compared costs. Fifty-six percent of those with high-deductible plans said they would use additional sources of health care pricing information if they were available. So did half of those with conventional coverage. “There is a big incentive for consumers in high-deductible health plans to price shop, and they just don’t seem to be doing it,” said Neeraj Sood, a co-author on the research letter and director of research at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California.
In recent years there’s been an uptick in the number of high-deductible health plans. Almost 25 percent of people with employer-based coverage had high-deductible plans in 2015, compared with 13 percent in 2010, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey of employer health benefits.