Consumers' Perceptions of Medical Prices

Consumers’ Perceptions of Medical Prices May Lead Them to Draw Wrong Conclusions

A price tag provides useful information about goods and services, but a recent study showed that prices are not always what they seem in regards to medical care. In a study by the Journal of Consumer Research released in January 2013, researchers suggested that how consumers view medical expenses could lead them to the wrong conclusions.

For example, the study’s authors noted that the low cost of a flu shot made it readily available for many consumers, who considered it essential to stay healthy. However, higher prices for various healthcare treatments signaled reduced accessibility for some consumers and made the medical care less important to them.

Study co-author Janet Schwartz said that focusing on price and risk can prevent consumers from making educated decisions. In fact, she stated that consumers who decide there is less risk in foregoing higher-priced medical treatments could make bad choices that may negatively impact their long-term health.

“Price and risk should be very independent from one another, when you think about consumers making informed healthcare choices,” Schwartz told Kaiser Health News. “But now we see that they are very dependent on one another, in the same way that price and quality are very dependent on one another, and that can lead to some inconsistencies in healthcare purchases.”

Additionally, the study made it clear that healthcare policymakers must provide sufficient information to educate consumers about medical expenses. The study’s authors said that simply offering the price of healthcare products and services is inadequate, and enhanced consumer education should inform people about the risks involved in foregoing important medical treatments.

Consumer-Directed Healthcare Plans Allow People to Make Informed Choices

With consumer-directed healthcare plans (CDHPs), enrollees can make decisions about medical goods, products and services based on data and research. These options give consumers resources they can use to control their spending, and research showed that CDHP participants tend to make cost-conscious decisions.

The Employee Benefits Research Institute’s December 2012 Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey showed that adults enrolled in CDHPs are more likely to display cost-conscious behaviors than those who participate in traditional healthcare plans. Researchers also found that CDHP enrollees were more likely to try to find information about their doctors’ costs and quality from sources other than the healthcare plan.

Originally Posted by CYC Staff on 1/15/13 in Connect Your Care