Friday, March 15, 2013

What some consumers are thinking about medical treatment costs?

When people get more involved in their health and take steps to make improvements the result usually is a better life and fewer medical treatment costs. This thinking is common in employers who have implemented various kinds of wellness efforts to encourage better health and to decrease the cost of their medical benefit plan.

Regretfully however a study reported in last month’s Health Affairs Journal indicated – “a majority of patients didn’t want to factor costs into their medical decisions, nor did they want their doctors to do so.” The study investigated the attitudes of 211 participants in focus groups held in Washington DC and Santa Monica CA.

There was one point in the findings I am all to familiar with. “People did not generally understand how insurance works and felt little personal responsibility for helping to solve the problem of rising health care costs.”

The article also reported on a conversation with Susan Dorr Goold a professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. She was the co- author of this study.

She was asked several questions about the findings. One was:

“You found that some participants seemed motivated to choose expensive care ‘out of spite’ because they were antagonistic toward their insurance company. What’s going on there?”

Professor Goold indicated:
There was almost a vengeful attitude toward insurance companies, the idea that “I’ve been paying in now I am going to get what I’m owed or I’m going to get them back for all the money I’ve paid in all these years.

She also indicated more research is needed in this area. “The motivation that I’m sick and I don’t want to think about the money, ”that’s understandable. But “I want to hurt the insurance company.” Why? Those health care payments come from money all of us have paid to insurers.

The exact questions and the way participants were asked is not known. However, these findings cannot be considered a “not to worry” situation. They are important considerations which employer benefit specialists, medical insurance company staff, and health insurance professionals, like myself, must focus on.

John C Parker, RHU, LTCP

(860) 662-3000

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