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TMCNet:  Study: Consumers Active in Their Own Health Care but Face Financial Pressures and Are Unprepared for Health Care Costs in Retirement

[January 08, 2014]

Study: Consumers Active in Their Own Health Care but Face Financial Pressures and Are Unprepared for Health Care Costs in Retirement

ANN ARBOR, Mich. --(Business Wire)--

The nation appears to be shifting away from the traditional model of health care, in which doctors have most of the decisionmaking authority. According to a newly released study, 9 out of 10 people want to have a say in important decisions regarding their health care. One-third would like to make a shared decision with their doctor, 43 percent want to make the final decision with some professional input, and 16 percent prefer to be completely in charge of their medical decisions.

These results are part of the fall 2013 Altarum Institute Survey of Consumer Health Care Opinions, the fifth in an ongoing series of semiannual surveys conducted by Altarum's Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care (CCCHC). The surveys collect information on consumer beliefs and preferences about health care. Subjects include consumers' preferred role in health care decisions, sources of information about health, important factors in selecting providers, and other perceptions about the quality and cost of health care.

One area where health care planning is lacking, however, is retirement. According to the study, only 5 percent of people are certain that they will have the recommended amount of savings needed to cover health expenses after they retire, while more than 80 percent are either unsure or unlikely to have enough money set aside for health care in retirement. The survey also found that most consumers face financial pressures and may be cuttig back on care as a result.


According to the study, when it comes to health care costs, "the majority of consumers indicated that they would be comfortable approaching their doctor about the cost of health care services. Four out of five are either somewhat or very comfortable asking about price. Despite this, fewer than half of consumers have actually asked about the price of care."

"It's a positive sign that people are open to asking their doctors about costs and involving themselves in their health care decisions," said Wendy Lynch, director of CCCHC and the study's author. "But overall, the study shows that people still have their head in the sand when it comes to what they think they can control. They have more power than they realize just by asking questions; now they just need to use it."

"Consumers still believe that problems in health care are the fault of insurance companies or government and underestimate what they can do themselves," added Dr. Lynch.

Dr. Lynch also mentioned that the size of a person's health insurance deductible tends to plays a role in whether he or she asks questions about the cost of care. Generally, those with higher deductibles are much more likely to ask about the price of health care services before visiting a health care provider.

The health care exchanges recently established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) were also discussed in the study, although the survey took place in the midst of the troubled HealthCare.gov website rollout. According to the study, nearly three out of five people indicated that they will not use the exchanges because they obtain health insurance from another source. Most of the remaining consumers reported that they are undecided about whether to participate in the exchanges or do not know anything about them.

For complete study results, please visit www.altarum.org/CCCHC.

Altarum Institute (www.altarum.org) integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., with additional offices in the Washington, DC, area; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.


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