Here's an unusual factor that could be helping to drive up U.S. health care costs: If people get a choice, they'll often go for the priciest option, researchers reported on Monday.
Patients tend to equate cost with quality, Judith Hibbard of the University of Oregon and colleagues report in the journal Health Affairs -- something that retailers know all too well but that may not have been taken into account in health care reform efforts.
The finding may argue against health care reform proposals, especially ideas about insurance-premium support put forward by Republicans such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that assume consumers will make canny choices if they are shopping with vouchers or their own money.
Hibbard's team studied 1,400 workers, offering them different doctors and care options. If they were given details on price alone, the volunteers chose the most expensive choice. But if given details about the quality of care, they moderated their choices, Hibbard's team said.
"It’s not simply a question of providing information on cost, but providing it in a way that is integrated with quality scores," said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which paid for the study.
A report last week from the International Federation of Health Plans found that Americans pay more for surgery, doctors, drugs, and diagnostic imaging than people living in Spain, France, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Canada, India, and Switzerland.