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Health Costs Drop When Patients Shop: Study

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Relatively few patients talk to their doctors about costs or ask for a discount, despite their concerns about health care costs, according to a new survey.

The survey by HealthMarkets Inc., North Richland Hills, Texas, shows that of those who did ask for a lower rate from their doctor, 55% were able to reduce their bill.

Around 70% of those surveyed said the average $11,000 cost to insure a family of 4 for health care is too much.

Yet just 1 out of 3 Americans said they had discussed treatment costs with a doctor in the past 5 years. And only 17% specifically asked for a lower price.

“When it comes to health care prices, Americans seem to have lost the will to shop,” comments said Peter Gaillard, HealthMarkets’ vice president of product development.

The most likely patients to ask for a lower price are those between the ages of 18 and 34, of whom 21% asked for a lower price, HealthMarkets found. Of those between 35 and 54, 14% asked for a lower price, as did 16% of those 55 and over.

People with lower incomes and less education are more likely to negotiate with their doctor. Only 14% of college graduates asked for a lower price, while 23% of those with a high school education or less did.

Of those with an income less than $50,000 a year, 21% negotiated, compared to just 10% of those with incomes of $75,000 or more.