Still Searching: How People Use Health Care Price Information in the United States

April 6, 2017

Historically, the health care system has not made it easy for people to find out how much their care will cost them out of pocket. Recently, insurers, state governments, employers and other entities have been trying to make health care price information more easily available to individuals and families. Although these price transparency efforts are new, we know from previous research that many Americans have tried to find price information before getting care. This new research reveals that Americans are still searching for price information, but obstacles remain to helping them find the information that can help them save money.

Public Agenda, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York State Health Foundation, set out to explore how Americans are trying to find and use health care price information and how residents of four states—New York, New Hampshire, Florida and Texas—are doing so.

Key findings:

  • Half of Americans have tried to find price information before getting care. People who have to pay more out of pocket are more likely to have tried to find price information.
  • Only some Americans have tried to compare prices. Of those who have tried to compare prices, more than half say they saved money.
  • Most Americans do not think prices are a sign of quality in health care. Of those who have tried to compare prices, most have chosen less expensive care.
  • Americans turn to friends, relatives and colleagues; insurance companies; doctors; and receptionists when they try to find price information.
  • Potential barriers to increasing the use of price information by Americans include limited awareness of price variation and uncertainty about how to find price information.
  • Americans want to know more about health care prices.

Read the report.