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Medical patients aren't bargain hunters
Date:4/3/2013

Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) offer low premiums but high deductibles on the premise that patients who are faced with deductibles of $1,000 or more for individual coverage (or twice that for family coverage) will shop around for the best price for the health care.

In practice, however, that's not the case, according to a new study by the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and the RAND Corporation.

Examining the consumer decisions with and without CDHPs when receiving nine common outpatient services (such as office visits, chest x-rays and colonoscopies) researchers found that patients with CDHPs paid roughly the same amount as their traditionally insured counterparts for 8 out of 9 services analyzed. The only exception was office visits where the researchers found that patients with CDHPs paid about 2 percent less for office visits.

"We looked at data from 63 large employers and find little or no evidence that enrolling in a consumer directed health plan encourages price-shopping for health care" said lead author Neeraj Sood, associate professor at the USC Schaeffer Center. Sood collaborated with Zachary Wagner, also from USC, as well as Peter Huckfeldt from RAND and Amelia M. Haviland from Carnigie Mellon University and RAND. Their study was published online in the journal Forum for Health Economics & Policy on March 20.

The problem is twofold, Sood said. A lack of transparency about the costs of medical treatment makes it difficult for shop around for the best price when's the last time you called around to radiology departments to inquire about the cost of an x-ray? Also, patients are most likely just to receive outpatient services from the providers their primary care physicians recommend.

"People don't question their doctor's advice," Sood said, who theorized that one possible solution would be to find a way to incentivize those doctors to help their patients find the most aff
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Contact: Robert Perkins
perkinsr@usc.edu
213-740-9226
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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