The Vizient Research Institute’s 2017 study found that health care prices, if left unchecked, will be unaffordable for the American middle class by 2030. Utilization reduction, the ambition of nearly all public policy and private sector risk-sharing initiatives, would be wholly insufficient to achieve economic sustainability.Relying on classic economic theory, high-deductible health plans were designed around the intuitive assumption that price reductions would come about through competitive disruption in the form of a genuinely functional market for elective services…in short, that consumers would shop based on price.

The 2018 study picks up where last year’s work left off and examines the reliability of those assumptions regarding the price elasticity of demand. Specifically, the study asks, does increased financial responsibility in the form of higher deductibles trigger price shopping by consumers? Should health care providers anticipate a disruption of traditional business models by market makers such as Amazon? Would price transparency reduce health care spending sufficiently to make it sustainable for the middle class?

Working with the non-partisan and objective research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, the Research Institute surveyed a large national sample of commercially insured consumers and followed up the survey with both in-depth telephone interviews and multiple in-person focus groups to explore the consumer’s thought processes when choosing health care providers.

“What we discovered about consumers was totally unexpected,” observed Tom Robertson, executive director of the Vizient Research Institute. “They tend to fall into one of two categories – those who avoid the health system for as long as they can, and those who have become acclimated to health spending as a result of serious illness … and surprisingly, neither group is particularly anxious about their out-of-pocket exposure.”

Answers to the questions posed in the latest study will challenge conventional thinking with respect to price, quality and value in the minds of health care consumers. The findings will be introduced at the annual meeting of AMC CEOs January 23-25, 2019 in Key Biscayne, Florida, and will be distributed to Vizient network members immediately thereafter.

For more information about joining a member network and accessing the resources provided by the Vizient Research Institute, contact Cindy White, vice president, methodology and programming.

Published: November 13, 2018