The health insurance reforms proposed by House Republicans would expand Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings accounts, encouraging individuals to pay for some medical services with pre-tax dollars. The GOP “patient-centered” health reform plan is designed to give consumers more choice and more skin in the game.
One way to reach that goal is to give people better information about prices for similar services and products so that patients could choose the best price from a competitive marketplace. If people were turned into savvy health care shoppers by comparing prices would they choose less expensive services, and in the aggregate, could this slow health care spending growth?
A new paper by University of Notre Dame economics professor Ethan Lieber examines what happens when people have access to health care prices. People who ‘shop’ for better prices paid 10 percent to 17 percent less than others. However, since a mere 12 percent of people insured by their employers searched for prices at least once in...