THE PRICE FACTOR

December 1, 2006

People in consumer-directed health plans appear to be more cost-conscious than those in traditional plans, according to a recent survey.

The survey of 1,389 people by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found:

  • Some 71 percent of those in the new "consumer-directed health plans" said the policies prompted them to consider cost when seeking health care, compared with 49 percent of those with more traditional employer-sponsored coverage.
  • People in the new plans were more likely to ask about the cost of a doctor's visit and inquire about the availability of lower-cost alternatives in treatments and tests.
  • More than half -- 55 percent -- who sought care said the new plans have changed their approach to using health care.

Such findings are in line with assertions by the Bush administration and other advocates who say that the new plans will check spiraling health-care spending by giving consumers a financial incentive to shop around for the best care at a reasonable price -- and to get only the care they need.

"It's a cultural shift," said Devon Herrick, a health economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis.  "When you go to Wal-Mart you don't have to ask about price -- it's right there next to the good or service you are buying.  Health care is not there yet, but it's getting that way.  This is the early stages.  We have the incentives to get people more responsible and asking about price."

Source: Christopher Lee, "Half in New Health Plans Want to Switch, Poll Shows," Washington Post, November 30, 2006.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/29/AR2006112901384.html

 

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