A recent article in the Wall Street Journal on April 12, 2017 titled “Can Consumers Be Smart Healthcare Shoppers” illustrated a difference of opinions about how easy or hard it is to find healthcare costs. Two prominent healthcare professionals responded to the questions with two very different answers. One professional said YES. while the other one said NO.
As a starting point, let’s review three recent surveys that will set the stage:1.
- Do Consumers Compare Costs
44% Did Not Try
33% Checked one price
21% Compared Prices
2% No Answer
Source: Public Agenda 2014 telephone survey
2. Consumers Want Information About Healthcare
(The percentage of consumers saying they are NOT satisfied with information available)
Question Under $50K Over $50k
Hospital costs before the visit 56% 4
Cost of medicines 49% 45%
Understanding medical Billing 54% 44
Outpatient costs before the visit 51% 41%
General Health Information 27% 23%
When to see a Doctor 26% 23
Doctors’ professional experience 28% 21%
Source: Altarum Institute June-August 2016 survey
3. High Cost patients give up on shopping
A recent survey by Aon Hewitt of 2500 consumers with health insurance through a wide range of employers indicated that more than 33% have given up trying to find what they should pay for healthcare services.
The following are the responses of the professionals:
The Healthcare professional responding YES, when asked about “How to Find Healthcare Costs.”
Response 1: Turn to your physician for help
Ask about lower cost tests….the doctor may recommend less expensive tests or monitor the condition.
Ask about medications that are less expensive.
Ask about free drug samples.
Ask about generic drugs.
Response 2: Find pricing tools to check on tests
Do a Google search to find the cost of your test
Ask about a cash price; it could be lower than your out of pocket cost
Consumers will make decisions based on personal communication rather than cost
Response 3: No consumer incentives?
Consumers have little to no incentive to shop costs…not so with ever increasing deductibles
Consumers need to shop to create healthcare consumerism to spur providers to be more competitive
The Healthcare professional responding NO when asked about “How to Find Healthcare Costs.”
Response 1: Healthcare is a complex system
Consumers are mainly “patients” with time sensitive needs
Consumers are asked to make complicated decisions
Less thn 15% of Americans can answer questions about basic healthcare insurance components
Fewer than 5% of the healthcare consumers use healthcare shopping tools
Consumers want less choices than more knowing they are receiving good care
Consumers have limited incentives to shop costs; typical consumers will save very little
Response 2: Insurance benefit structure vary
Insurance benefits drive any potential savings
Consumers may live in areas with limited healthcare provider choices
Response 3: No simple answer for the consumer
Prices vary from procedure to procedure/provider to provider
Medication costs can be complex to manage as well
Most consumers are not researching and making choices
Both professionals bring up very good points both pro and con.
The main theme in both responses is that the consumer is becoming more involved in their healthcare choices. Consumers are asking questions and are seeking out more usable information. In addition, the consumer needs to start understanding and planning for their healthcare needs.
Healthcare Consumer Navigator Center is a national company with a business mission to guide consumers through the complex healthcare system by providing a web site with comprehensive information and education materials. Healthcare Consumers will be provided tools, guides, information, and education to navigate the complexities of the healthcare systems.