From a press release . . .
More than 70 percent of U.S. consumers say they know little or nothing about how much their doctors charge compared to other doctors, according to a survey sponsored by HealthMarkets, a leading provider of affordable health and life insurance to individuals, the self-employed and small businesses.
When it comes to Americans estimating the cost of health care, usually, the price is wrong Â– because the estimate is too low. Most adults (65 percent) think that, in general, a high-priced doctor in the U.S. charges two or three times as much for the same procedure as a low-priced doctor. In fact, a review of HealthMarkets data for several selected procedures shows that some doctors charge nearly 10 times what others charge for the same procedure.
Â“Most Americans have no idea how much health care costs or how much it varies from one provider to another,Â” HealthMarkets President and CEO William J. Gedwed said. Â“If consumers are going to effectively manage their health care dollars, they need to know how much things will cost them.Â”
The survey found few people have a sense of how much health care can cost, or how much costs can vary from one doctor to another. For example:
-- Told that the lowest price charged nationwide for a CT scan of the abdomen was $298, most people (73 percent) said the highest price other doctors charge for the same procedure would be no more than $2,000. (The low price was based on actual 2005 HealthMarkets claims data.)
-- In fact, the actual charge for the same CT scan varied from $298 to $2,858 - or almost 10 times as much as the low price - according to HealthMarkets 2005 claims data.
-- Told that the lowest price charged for a knee replacement was $22,000, 83 percent said the highest price was no more than $66,000.
-- In fact, the actual price charged for a knee replacement varied from $22,000 to $77,239, or more than three times as much as the low price.
-- Only 1 out of 10 respondents correctly guessed the high price range for a tonsillectomy.
-- The low price charged was $2,300. The high was nearly six times as much, or $13,187.
-- Even the price charged for a new patient office visit can vary greatly, ranging from $60 to more than four times as much, or $261, HealthMarkets data shows.
The survey found strong demand for tools that provide greater transparency for health care services. Almost 70 percent of people said it would be useful to have online data comparing health care providers.
Roy Ramthun, a former senior health policy advisor at the White House, said a lack of price transparency is one reason health care costs rise faster than inflation year after year.
Â“As consumers watch health care costs rise, they are eager to take more control over their health care decisions and spending,Â” Ramthun said. Â“Fortunately, some companies, such as HealthMarkets, are making great strides in helping consumers shop wisely for health care.Â”
HealthMarkets offers price and quality transparency tools that provide members detailed information on more than 430,000 medical professionals, 4,000 hospitals and medical centers, and 26,000 other resources, such as labs, MRI centers, medical equipment providers and home health care centers. HealthMarkets tools also provide price transparency for more than 20,000 procedures and services, from a routine check-up to a specialist visit to a surgical procedure. No other insurance company offers more price transparency information.
The tools, offered in the companyÂ’s CareOne Select Plans, are being rolled out nationwide and currently are sold in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Texas. They are sold by HealthMarkets subsidiaries The MEGA Life and Health Insurance Company and Mid-West National Life Insurance Company of Tennessee.
Other findings of the survey include:
-- Close to 60 percent of consumers surveyed said that health insurance is not affordable. In fact, more than one out of 10 Americans (13 percent) said the high cost of health care had caused them to fall behind on paying bills for essentials such as food, electricity and housing.
-- A quarter of Americans (24 percent) said during the past two years they have skipped a visit to the doctor for a check up or medical problem because the amount they would have to pay is too high.
-- Among those who are self-employed or work in small business, nearly a third (31 percent) said they have delayed a doctor visit because out-of-pocket costs would be too high.
Â“Health care is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of family budgets, forcing people to make very difficult decisions,Â” Gedwed said. Â“We are committed to making health care as affordable as possible, and price transparency is one step in the right direction. We know that when consumers have better information, they become more prudent health care shoppers.Â” www.healthmarkets.com