Still Searching: How People Use Health Care Price Information in the United States, New York State, Florida, Texas and New Hampshire

by David Schleifer; Chloe Rinehart; Rebecca Silliman

Apr 1, 2017

Americans bear a large and growing share of their health care costs in the form of high deductibles and insurance premiums, as well as copayments and, sometimes, coinsurance for physician office visits and hospitalizations. Historically, the health care system has not made it easy for people to find out how much their care will cost them out of pocket. But, in recent years, insurers, state governments, employers and other entities have been trying to make price information more easily available to individuals and families. Are Americans trying to find out about health care prices today? Do they want more information? What sources would they trust to deliver it?

This nationally representative research finds 50 percent of Americans have tried to find health care price information before getting care, including 20 percent who have tried to compare prices across multiple providers. Representative surveys in four states— New York, Texas, Florida and New Hampshire—show higher percentages of residents in Texas, Florida and New Hampshire have tried to find price information and have compared prices than New York residents and Americans overall. This variation suggests factors at the state level might be influencing how many people try to find out about health care costs. Nationally and in those four states, more than half of people who compared prices report saving money. Most Americans overall think it is important for their state governments to provide comparative price information. But we found limited awareness that doctors' prices vary and limited awareness that hospitals' prices vary.

Public Agenda conducted this research with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York State Health Foundation. The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 2,062 adults, ages 18 and older, and a set of representative surveys in four states: one survey of 802 adults in New York, one of 808 adults in Texas, one of 819 adults in Florida and one of 826 adults in New Hampshire. The surveys were conducted from July through September 2016 by telephone, including cell phones, and online.

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