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As Americans Shoulder More Health Care Costs, Survey Suggests Many Are Hungry For More And Better Price Information

March 17, 2015

Most Americans Already Seeking Information About Health Care Prices, Though Obstacles Remain


New York City — The majority of Americans have actively looked for information about the price of their health care, and many may be ready to choose less expensive care, according to a new study from Public Agenda.

While insurance companies and vendors are developing tools to make out-of-pocket health care prices more transparent, price information remains largely hidden. Nonetheless, 56 percent of Americans say they have sought out such information before getting care, including 21 percent who have compared prices across multiple providers. Others say they sought out price information for just one provider—including by asking a receptionist, friend, relative or their insurance company, or by looking for the information online—but haven’t compared prices across multiple providers.

Even among people who have never sought price information for medical services before getting care, 57 percent say they would be interested in knowing this information before getting care, and 43 percent say they would choose a less expensive doctor if they knew prices. People who have compared prices (21 percent of the total) believe doing so helped them save money – 62 percent of those who’d compared prices say this. Additionally, 76 percent of these individuals say price comparison influenced their choice of provider and 82 percent say they will compare prices again in the future.

However, the survey finds Americans are split on whether people should be expected to compare prices for medical care. Forty-three percent of all respondents say it is not reasonable to expect people to compare prices before getting care.

“Overall, these findings signal many people are considering price when they choose providers and may be receptive to efforts that enable them to do so more effectively,” said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. “Still, shopping around for better health care prices is not viable in all situations and encouraging people to do so must be part of a larger effort to reduce the prices and costs of health care in the U.S.”

“Many of these findings are encouraging, but of course we know that even though people may be seeking out and hoping to use health care price information, the information they are getting may not be personally meaningful or actionable. For that reason, it’s very important to understand what consumers want to know when it comes to not only the price, but the quality of the health care they are seeking out—along with how and where they’d like to access that information—and to respond to those needs and preferences accordingly,” said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program officer, Andrea Ducas.

People with higher deductibles, women and people with a college degree are more likely than other Americans to have sought price information. Sixty-seven percent of those with deductibles of $500 to $3,000 and 74 percent of those with deductibles higher than $3,000 have tried to find price information before getting care. Fifty-nine percent of women and 62 percent of respondents with college degrees report having tried to find price information.

People who have compared prices across multiple providers are more likely than other Americans to have frequent contact with the health care system. Over half of these individuals—53 percent—say they are making health care decisions for an adult family member and 42 percent say they are receiving regular medical treatment or make regular visits to the doctor for chronic health problems.

Contrary to the concern that people would be unwilling to choose lower-priced care, fearing that it would be lower quality, the survey suggests most Americans do not necessarily equate cost with quality. Seventy-one percent say they do not think higher prices indicate better quality care and 63 percent do not think lower prices are typically a sign of lower-quality care. Survey findings are summarized in a new report, “How Much Will It Cost? How Americans Use Prices in Health Care.” The research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 2,010 adults conducted in 2014, along with focus groups and follow-up interviews.


About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at @PublicAgenda.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at