High-deductible health plans don’t boost price shopping

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Consumers with high-deductible health plans do not appear to be more motivated to shop around for less expensive, higher quality medical care than those with lower-deductible plans, according to a study by Anna Sinaiko, research scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues.

The findings were published online in a research letter January 19, 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

It’s been thought that consumers paying more of their own money for health care – or having “skin in the game,” as the authors described it – would want to shop around. However, the authors’ Internet survey of about 2,000 adults with either high-deductible or lower-deductible health plans found only about 10% of those in each group reported considering other doctors the last time they purchased medical care. Only about 4% compared costs.

“Simply increasing a deductible, which gives enrollees skin in the game, appears insufficient to facilitate price shopping,” the authors wrote. The authors found a need for “greater availability of price information” and “innovative approaches” to make information easier for consumers to use.