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Survey: Health Account Users Still Lack Price Data

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Human resources executives say health consumers continue to have a hard time shopping for care based on cost.

Researchers at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Washington, and the RAND Corp., Santa Monica, Calif., have based that finding on a survey of HR executives at 47 large U.S. employers with a total of 58 health savings account and health reimbursement arrangement programs.

Participating executives reported that health account plan members have a much easier time comparing drug prices than they have comparing prices for medical procedures.

About 92% of the participants said their health account plans offer online drug cost information and only 23% of those employers said the information is poor or merely satisfactory.

Meanwhile, only 7% of the participants said the health account programs they use offer good or excellent information about the cost of care from specific providers.

Although 77% of the participants said their health account plans offer procedure-specific cost information, 69% of those participants said the procedure-specific cost data is satisfactory or poor.

The HR executives also are having a hard time assessing how much value employees get from some health account tools.

About 69% of the participants’ companies provide hospital cost ratings, but only 22% of those companies track how many employees use the cost ratings, according to the Watson Wyatt and RAND researchers.

Employers were more likely to track use of health coaching and of onsite health screening tests.

The HR executives reported spending an average of about $11 per employee on health account program communications services and about $7.50 per employee on health account brochures.


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