Cover: Americans Support Price Shopping For Health Care, But Few Actually Seek Out Price Information

Americans Support Price Shopping For Health Care, But Few Actually Seek Out Price Information

Published in: Health Affairs, Volume 36, Number 8 (August 2017), pages 1392-1400. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1471

Posted on Sep 6, 2017

by Ateev Mehrotra, Katie M. Dean, Anna D. Sinaiko, Neeraj Sood

The growing awareness of the wide variation in health care prices, increased availability of price data, and increased patient cost sharing are expected to drive patients to shop for lower-cost medical services. We conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,996 nonelderly US adults who had received medical care in the previous twelve months to assess how frequently patients are price shopping for care and the barriers they face in doing so. Only 13 percent of respondents who had some out-of-pocket spending in their last health care encounter had sought information about their expected spending before receiving care, and just 3 percent had compared costs across providers before receiving care. The low rates of price shopping do not appear to be driven by opposition to the idea: The majority of respondents believed that price shopping for care is important and did not believe that higher-cost providers were of higher quality. Common barriers to shopping included difficulty obtaining price information and a desire not to disrupt existing provider relationships.

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