Undermining consumer engagement

by jerry on September 01, 2019
For nearly two decades, many in the healthcare industry have held out hope that empowering consumers with sufficient information would exert enough pressure on providers that patients would receive higher-value care. It turns out that even diligent consumers can be frustrated in their efforts to find pricing information. Kaiser Health News reported on one patient who actively sought pricing information before his procedure, but the estimate was more than 50% off.

When estimates can be that far off, it is difficult for shopping around to be meaningful. Ideally, the estimates have to be accurate (i.e. providers cannot charge much more than what was estimated), and estimates would be easy to obtain. Unfortunately, complications do arise, meaning that there can legitimately be variation on the price. Giving consumers a range of prices would be helpful, but not if the ranges are too broad and if the conditions for the upper end of the range are too vague. Health care is complicated, and even just procedure pricing can be difficult to obtain.