New Research: Consumers Share Opinions on Health Care Price and Propensity to Shop

One of central components of health care transparency is helping people see and understand expected health care costs specific to their insurance benefits. This helps minimize surprise bills and empowers consumers to take control of their health care spending by planning for and shopping for care whenever possible. In HealthSparq’s most recent health care consumer survey, we asked 967 health plan members how they research health care prices, whether they understand their out-of-pocket estimates and if they trust the cost information received from their health plans.

Below are some of the most noteworthy findings from the survey:

  • People are looking to their health plans for cost information.
    • When looking for health care cost information, people most often turn to their health plan – both through the member portal and website (48% seeking out cost information through these avenues) and through health plan customer service by phone (41%).
    • The next most frequently used sources are health care providers (41%) and general internet searches (30%).
  • People want health care cost information, especially when it comes to out-of-pocket (OOP) costs.
    • 85% say it is important for them to receive OOP cost information from their health plan for a complex procedure like surgery.
    • 70% want even more details, preferring their health plan to give them costs for the individual parts (e.g. surgeon, facility, prescriptions, labs, etc.) of a complex procedure.
  • Overall, members are happy with the cost information they are getting from their health plans.
    • A majority of health plan members (69%) are satisfied with the cost information that is currently provided by their health plans.
    • Approximately two thirds of health plan members believe the cost information they receive from their health plans is accurate, easy to understand and gives them the information they need to make health care decisions.
  • The trust gap is closing. Historically, health plans haven’t been highly rated when it comes to trust. In this most recent survey, however, we found that more than half (51%) of health plan members believe their health plan has its members’ best interests in mind. Help drive this positive sentiment forward by engaging with your members in as many helpful and meaningful ways as possible.

Diving into the shift toward active health care shopping: 35-44-year-olds

The research highlighted some exciting trends among those ages 35-44. While usage of health care shopping tools and resources remain low, we found a positive trend toward more cost estimation digital tool usage, more questioning and better, deeper understanding of health care costs in younger age demographics, led by 35-44-year-olds.

They are hungry for cost information:

  • Beyond just wanting the information, they are actively taking action to find it: 96% of those ages 35-44 have used at least one source to obtain health care cost information, followed closely by 95% of those ages 25-34.
  • This group shops around. Once they receive out of pocket cost estimates, 22% of those ages 35-44 would search for another provider if the cost they received was unreasonable and 13% would search for another provider even if the cost was reasonable.
  • Finally, this age group highly values cost information: 85% of those ages 35-44 say receiving the out-of-pocket cost for a procedure from their health plan before a complex procedure, like surgery, is very or extremely important.
  • They aren’t just looking for themselves: As digital natives begin to need more health care services for growing and aging families, they are applying their regular online shopping habits to find health care information for their loved ones. Those ages 35-44 are more likely than any other age group (37%) to be searching for health care cost information for children/dependents, followed by those 25-34 (35%) and those 45-54 (32%).

With younger generations pushing for increased health care cost transparency and actively shopping around for care, we’re thrilled to see people taking more control of their health care spend and acting as empowered patients and consumers.