Recently, yet another study has come to light that highlights one fact in regards to health-care: consumers aren’t shopping around.
With high-deductible insurance plans (plans that have a higher initial cost and lower monthly payments) gaining traction and popularity, as based on JAMA’s internet survey, the need to explore options has never been more prevalent. Apparently, only ten percent of customers even considered other doctors during their previous purchase of health-care. As for actual price-comparison, only four percent of those who answered claimed they shopped around.
Now, this is not to say that this survey is unequivocal truth. The article actually goes on to say that internet surveys have their own limitations in the way of potentially misleading response rates. Regardless, the numbers are intriguing. Of course, there is likely a variety of reasons for this seeming laziness. Yet, the most prominent explanation is also the most simple, it’s just plain hard.
The information is not as available as it should be. According to KHN, the JAMA report is only the most recent piece to make such claims. JAMA concludes that groups switching to high-deductible plans “don’t directly translate into more comparison shopping by patients, or more efficient users of health-care.” This lack of information is likely because services are bundled together, thus making proper, accurate, and efficient price-comparison a difficult endeavor to say the least.
For example, should you be receiving surgery, you are not just paying the surgeon. You’re paying the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the hospital fee in addition to possible other fees. For the layman, distinguishing between each service, each service’s average price, and then combining each service’s average price with one another into one conclusive, reasonable payment, is slightly ridiculous. The process would be difficult enough for a doctor familiar with the lay of the land, yet alone for the average citizen who is a stranger to medical procedures.
Ultimately, there needs to be an easy-to-use resource to ensure consumers make well-educated fiscal decisions. Otherwise, consumers are unwittingly dooming themselves to higher pricing and lower coverage, and that is, quite frankly, unacceptable. Consumers should be held accountable for what they purchase; but they should also understand the nature of what they purchase. Until consumers can compare medical fees the same way they can compare cars and groceries, there needs to be a change.