Poll: MA Healthcare Cost Concerns Highest in 8 Years; Consumers Eager for More Cost Information

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Consumers eager to compare costs of medical services from different doctors and hospitals

Boston (May 06, 2013) – An annual spring healthcare poll released today by Mass Insight Survey Research Group finds that Massachusetts residents are feeling an increasing burden from healthcare costs and are eager for more information about these costs.

Since 2004, the Mass Insight / Opinion Dynamics Healthcare Affordability Index has tracked how much of a cost burden residents feel from premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs, and deductibles. Results are calculated into a single Index score, which measures the level of affordability people feel toward their healthcare. Results from the spring 2013 poll show the lowest score ever recorded on the Index, 109, meaning Massachusetts residents feel their healthcare is becoming less affordable and more of a financial burden.

“With our affordability index dropping 10 points in the last year alone, it’s clear that residents are feeling the pinch of healthcare costs,” said William H. Guenther, CEO and Founder of Mass Insight. “Fortunately, our state healthcare and business leaders are focused on this critical issue and are rolling out a number of new tools to empower consumers to better understand the cost of their care and make more informed decisions.”

To address healthcare affordability, in 2012 Massachusetts passed major healthcare cost, quality, and transparency reform legislation. Now being implemented, the legislation requires health plans to maintain toll free numbers and websites giving consumers access to provider-specific estimates of cost-sharing for procedures and admissions. These tools are intended to give consumers detailed price information reflective of actual out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, the newly created Center for Health Information Analysis will aggregate cost and quality data from healthcare organizations and publish this information on a state run consumer health website.

To better understand how residents may use these new cost transparency tools, Mass Insight partnered with the Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation to ask how consumers are seeking out price information about their healthcare.

Results show that consumers overwhelmingly want greater access to healthcare cost information, are comfortable talking with their providers about costs, and are eager to compare costs between different providers when making decisions about where to receive care:

  • 89% agree that “It is important that I know how much my medical care will cost ahead of time.”
  • 73% agree that they are currently “able to get useful information about my out-of-pocket costs in advance.”
  • 79% agree that “I’d like to be able to go to a website to compare the costs of receiving medical services from different doctors and hospitals.”
  • 81% agree that “I would feel comfortable discussing the cost of my medical care with my doctor.”
  • 67% agree that “If I could compare the prices of different doctors or hospitals, it would affect my choices about where to receive care.”

"The results of this poll confirm the Patrick administration's belief that the time for transparency in healthcare is now," said Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Barbara Anthony. "Toward that end, the Administration is spearheading an effort to empower healthcare consumers with price and information transparency, as outlined in the state's landmark cost containment law, so we can all make better healthcare choices.”

“It is encouraging to see that consumers want more information about the cost of their healthcare,” said Richard C. Lord, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “It is absolutely essential that consumers play a much greater role in their healthcare decisions if we are going to address costs in a meaningful way. Fortunately, we are now starting to give consumers the tools and information they need to make more informed health purchasing decisions.”

Poll conducted for Mass Insight by Opinion Dynamics Corporation. This survey was conducted among 450 Massachusetts residents. Residents were contacted by telephone using a mixture of random-digit-dial (RDD) and cell phone sample from April 24- 29, 2013. The margin of error on the full, 450-member sample is ± 4.6% at the mid-range of the 95% confidence interval.

Mass Insight / Opinion Dynamics Healthcare Affordability Index
The Mass Insight / Opinion Dynamics Healthcare Affordability Index is calculated by assessing positive and negative ratings on each of four cost-related health care measures—specifically, the cost burden people feel on premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs and deductibles. These calculations result in a single Index score, which measures the level of affordability people feel toward their health care. A rise in the Index score signifies a greater sense of affordability, a drop in the Index score reflects a lesser sense of affordability.

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