Health Cost Negotiators Still Relatively Rare

December 2, 2005 ( - Consumer driven health plans may be gaining popularity in some quarters, but that apparently doesn't mean Americans are more likely to hash out lower medical costs with a provider.

A news release said that a new Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll shows that US adults are no more likely to wheel and deal on health expenses than they were three years ago.

In fact, fewer adults today than three years ago say that if their out-of-pocket health care expenses increased in the next two years, they would be likely or very likely to negotiate a better price for medical bills (44% now compared to 53% in 2002).

“We can see that consumers who have engaged in discussions about costs have had success in negotiating lower prices for health-related products and services,” said Katherine Binns, president of the Health care and Public Relations Research Practice at Harris Interactive, in the news release. “This suggests that as we continue to more toward a world of ‘consumer-directed health care’, consumers may find it increasingly necessary to confront health care providers and insurers about costs, and that they will become increasingly confident in negotiating for health-related goods and services as they do in other sectors of the economy.”

Survey findings included:

  • 13% say they have talked with a pharmacist to see if they could pay a lower price than what they had been billed, compared to 17% in 2002.
  • 12% say they have negotiated with a doctor, compared to 13% in 2002.
  • 10% say they have negotiated with a dentist, compared to 12% in 2002.
  • 9% have negotiated with a hospital, compared to 10% in 2002.
  • 13% reported that they tried to negotiate a lower price with a health insurer or plan.

The percentage of adults who talked with health providers and said they were successful in negotiating a lower price did increase significantly, according to the announcement:

  • 70% adults who talked with a hospital say they were successful in negotiating a lower price, up from 45% in 2002.
  • 64% of adults who negotiated with a dentist say they were successful, compared to 47% three years ago.
  • 61% adults who negotiated with a doctor say they were successful, up from 54% in 2002.
  • 56%)of those who talked with a pharmacist say they were successful in negotiating a lower price, compared to 48% in 2002.

The survey covered 2,027 US adults and was conducted between November 15 and 17, 2005.