Policy Documents

Shopping for Health Care

John Goodman –
March 15, 2006

Will consumers some day be able to shop for health care the way they shop for groceries?  As far fetched as that idea may seem, some believe it will become a reality.  But in order for patients to become savvy shoppers in the marketplace, they must be able to discover what things cost and to compare prices as well as value.  Today, that is not easy to do.

A recent Harris poll found that consumers can guess the price of a new Honda Accord within $300.  But when asked to estimate the cost of a four-day stay in the hospital, those same consumers were off by $8,100!  Further, 63 percent of those who had received medical care the last two years did not know the cost of the treatment until the bill arrived.  Ten percent said they never learned the cost.