Shopping For Price In Medical Care

February 10, 2007

Consumers for Health Care Choices reviewed two articles from Health Affairs on self-pay in health care. The first article titled, “Self-Pay Markets In Health Care: Consumer Nirvana Or Caveat Emptor?” (full text available) discusses a study of Lasik eye surgery and dental Crowns as examples. The consumer group notes that Lasik providers fall into three market segments: “highly credential “premium price” surgeons, high-volume discounters, and a mid-level that falls in between”. They note that about half of patients come in through marketing but the other half is largely word of mouth. And the premium price group “are the ones most focused on quality, asking about technology, safety, and
outcomes, but also about ‘customer service amenities’.”

In Vitro Fetilization is another example given. Conclusions overall: “For consumers who do take quality into account when shopping, comparing quality across providers is more easily done in some self-pay markets than others.” The Health Affairs article goes on to recommend better comparison tools which adjust for case complexity in quality outcomes.

The second article is “Shopping for price in medical care: Insurers are best positioned to provide consumers with
the information they need, but will they deliver?”

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