Making sure U.S. consumers get the right health care and health plan information in the right way could have a big effect on how well consumers understand what they are getting.
Lynn Quincy, a policy analyst at Consumers Union, gave that assessment today at a hearing on health care system transparency organized by a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.
Lawmakers have been lacking at how the difficulties consumers have with getting information about the “list price” for health care services and the discounted prices health insurers pay affect consumers’ use of health care.
Quincy said Consumers Union has found when conducting surveys that consumers often see the price of health care as a quality indicator.
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Because of that factor, policymakers and marketplace builders who want to encourage efficiency need to make sure consumers get quality data along with price data, to overcome the tendency to equate price with quality, Quincy said.
“One of the barriers to getting it right is that the information is too dense,” Quincy said at another point.
The federal government has required the use of both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and notices and the “miles per gallon” (MPG) gasoline use stickers that appear on every new car, Quincy said.
The MPG stickers have been much more successful at getting information across to consumers and influencing consumers’ behavior, in part because the stickers are much simpler than the notices, Quincy said.