What do consumers believe about health care costs?
Cost and what you pay can be different stories.
A major hurdle to decreasing health care costs is the transparency of care information for consumers. Consumers need to know how much their care will cost so they can compare treatments. Unfortunately, consumers from focus groups report that cost information is difficult to obtain and understand. Health insurers consider their cost information to be private and may not share such information readily. At the same time, providers are often unable to share out-of-pocket costs with the patient before a treatment. And billing processes are confusing, too. Consumers may get their bills in dozens of pieces and have no explanation for the different pieces.
Consumers tend to attribute variations in health care costs to differences in quality, location, or negotiated rates—not treatment intensity or unneeded care. A common misconception is that higher cost equals higher-quality care.
Consumers’ interest in the cost of care tends to relate to their personal, out-of-pocket costs. Said one consumer, “I would say the question here is not so much what the cost is. It‘s actually how much do I have to pay?”
Public reports can help consumers play a more active role in their health care choices. Public reports of cost information, when linked with information on quality, can help consumers understand that variations in costs and resource use are not explained by differences in quality or patients’ needs—that is, price is not a stand-in for quality.
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