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Patients aren't healthcare bargain hunters

April 3, 2013 at 11:52 PM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, April 3 (UPI) -- High deductibles -- $1,000 or more for individual coverage -- don't motivate U.S. patients to shop around for the cheapest medical services, researchers say.

Neeraj Sood and Zachary Wagner, both of the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, Peter Huckfeldt of the Rand Corp. and Amelia M. Haviland of Carnegie Mellon University and the Rand Corp. said consumer-directed health plans offer low premiums but high deductibles on the premise patients faced with deductibles of $1,000 or more will shop around for the best price for the healthcare.

The researchers examined consumer decisions made with and without CDHPs while receiving nine common outpatient services such as office visits, chest X-rays and colonoscopies.

The study, published in the journal Forum for Health Economics & Policy, found 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, the study said.

"We looked at data from 63 large employers and found little or no evidence that enrolling in a consumer directed health plan encourages price-shopping for healthcare" Sood said in a statement.

A lack of transparency about the costs of medical treatment makes it difficult for patients to determine the price of an X-ray, let alone shop around for the best price, Sood said.

In addition, 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.

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