Study: Americans just say no to healthcare cost homework

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Healthcare costs are at the top of the list of concerns for everyone, from politicians to ordinary American citizens. Key to navigating costs and care is a lot of effort to research pricing (as well as care quality data), yet most Americans are unwilling to do that. This is according to a new nationwide survey of 1,000 adults commissioned by Destiny Health and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation. The study places a lot of uncertainty on the push to make healthcare cost and quality information readily available for Americans.   

"More than anything, this study shows that while there is an obvious need for greater access to cost and quality information about healthcare providers, Americans need even more to be given a reason to seek out that information," said Barry Swartzberg, executive director of Destiny Health. "Today, with 97 percent of Americans covered by paternalistic forms of healthcare insurance, that motivation is missing," he added.    

According to Swartzberg, people who belong to such plans don’t see the gain in investigating cost and quality. Thus, “they have disengaged from the process and seem to be waiting for others to solve the healthcare cost crisis," he said.
   
To put the disengagement in perspective, survey respondents indicated that they devote twice as much of their time considering the purchase of household goods as they do pondering their healthcare providers.
   
"The sad fact is, consumerism is making an impact in every corner of the American economy but the doctor's office," he said. "And that needs to change if we are to gain control of rising healthcare costs."    
   
Just 10 percent of survey respondents said they would be "extremely likely" to "shop around" for medical services if the information were easily available. If this result is combined with the number of people "very likely" (29 percent) to do this research, the total of respondents that seem to be willing to spend the time shopping for healthcare is still below 40 percent.
   
Again comparing to buying household items, respondents said that on average they spend 20 days of research on such purchases whereas they spend just 9.7 days considering which doctors to see.
   
One reason for this is that with “traditional insurance paying the bill and dictating a network of providers, there is no compelling reason for people to take it upon themselves to search out the best deal on cost and quality,” Swartzberg said.