Most consumers don't equate healthcare prices with quality

A new study has confirmed that consumers are aware that healthcare prices bear little relation to the delivery of quality care.

That is the conclusion of researchers at UC San Francisco and the non-profit advocacy group Public Agenda. They published their findings in the most recent issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Between 58 percent and 71 percent of survey respondents believe that there is little correlation between the cost of the healthcare being delivered and its overall quality, according to the study. That range is based on the results of four different studies on the topic between 2007 and 2014, querying nearly 5,800 individuals in total, and takes into account the fact that the question was posed differently in each study. The 71 percent response came from the most straightforward question on the topic: "Would you say higher prices are typically a sign of better quality medical care or not?"

By contrast, just between 21 and 24 percent of respondents thought there was an association between cost and quality. 

However, there were several demographic splits. Respondents who were African-American, Hispanic or younger than the age of 30 were significantly more likely to assert that price impacts the quality of healthcare delivered. And among those who compared prices, 37 percent said there was a correlation between cost and quality.

Outside of healthcare, people's views on the relationship between price and quality depend on factors such as the type of good in question, consumers' expectations and the information available, the study said.

Price transparency is, for the most part, an anomaly in healthcare. Annual surveys on price transparency give failing grades to 90 percent of all states. However, some initial forays into comparison shopping for imaging have found that MRI centers that offer lower prices may not provide a product with enough quality to serve any diagnostic purposes.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract