Survey Says: Consumers Share Why They Use Cost Transparency Tools – And We Suggest How to Get More of Them to Do So

We know that people in this country want more control over their health care costs. In our 2020 Health Care Consumer Benchmark, we found that 78% of respondents want to know how much they can expect to pay out of pocket for their health care. Many health plan members already have access to personalized cost estimates, a key component of price transparency efforts, but the high level of demand doesn’t match up to the lower levels of tool usage. We believe that oftentimes it’s a marketing and communication issue: Health plans can increase utilization by communicating the availability and value of their cost transparency tools.

To help our clients, we recently completed a fresh round of consumer research focused on how health plans can better market their cost transparency tools. The survey included 460 individuals with health insurance, with the goal of understanding why health plan members use these tools for their health care planning and which kinds of messaging resonate best. You can access the message testing report from the study here.

More people are using health care cost estimator tools than in years past.

One takeaway from the survey is that the use of health care cost estimator tools has increased, with 20% of respondents reporting using their health plan’s cost estimator tool. Just a few years ago, usage numbers were reported around 3% for these tools. However, 32% of our survey respondents said they’ve never heard of a cost estimator tool available from their health plan. Many commercial health plans report offering this capability, so there’s still lots of room for improvement.

Turning the Non-Users Into Users
So how do you reach your members and persuade them to use cost estimators? Based on the research, we suggest incorporating the following actions and insights into your strategy:

1. Send emails with optimal subject lines to drive engagement.
Which messages are the most effective when it comes to email subject lines? Our survey says it’s language that incorporates the topics of personal costs and availability/timeliness. Below are the two most popular email subject line messaging options according to our survey:

  • “Your out-of-pocket cost estimates are available on our website.”
  • “Estimate your medical costs before your next appointment.”

2. Emphasize a consumer’s ability to control their health care decisions and cost savings.
People are hungry for health care cost information that is relevant to them. Focusing on messaging that reinforces a consumer’s power to control their care and costs can have a dramatic impact on how your members engage with your tools. Here are some interesting findings from the survey:

  • The majority of consumers said that messaging mentioning why cost estimation is valuable is most appealing: “The cost estimator helps because the same exact procedure can vary in price by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.”
  • Another appealing set of messages are those that mention a consumer’s ability to have control over their health care. For example, “Use the cost estimator because you have the power to control where you go for care and understand your expected health care costs,” and, “Use the cost estimator because you can plan and make sure the care you need fits into your budget” both resonated well with respondents.

3. Make cost estimation tools easy to find
No one wants to do extra work when trying to get help, so make sure you keep it simple! The most effective names for a cost estimator tool are the most descriptive and direct:

  • Top choice: “Cost Comparison Tool”
  • Tie for second: “Cost Estimator” and “Treatment Cost Estimator”


If you’re interested in learning more about our research or the solutions we provide, our team would be happy to chat! You can get in touch with us here.