While many employers have made an effort to educate employees and dependents that medical procedure costs vary widely depending on location and provider type, a recent survey found only 29 percent of health plan sponsors offer a pricing comparison tool, according to respondents.
The survey was conducted last month by corporate wellness program vendor HealthMine and queried 750 consumers enrolled in wellness programs. However, the consumers surveyed did show interest in having a pricing comparison tool at their disposal when faced with the need to seek medical services. Forty-two percent of respondents said having such a tool is “very important” and 48 percent said it would be “nice to have.”
Employers may be interested to know that when asked why they don’t compare health care service costs before scheduling services, 41 percent of respondents said, “cost is covered by my health plan, so it doesn’t matter.” Another 34 percent reported they do not choose medical services based on price, 15 percent said they did not know how and 10 percent claimed it is too difficult or it takes too much time to shop by price.
What about those consumers who do compare prices when shopping for health care? Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they call health plan network providers for pricing, 35 percent use a health plan-provided tool, 14 percent use an online tool and eight percent ask family and friends.
Making a case for more widespread access to health care price shopping, HealthMine CEO and President Bryce Williams said, “When consumers don’t look into health care prices in advance, they are effectively taking money out of their wallet with a blindfold on.”