Study Asks Consumers About Cost Control Initiatives
The not-for-profit health policy organization Sacramento Healthcare Decisions is holding discussions with about 300 Sacramento-area residents to learn how consumers think cost should factor into medical decisions, the Sacramento Bee reports. The researchers will question the participants about fictional patients and situations and how the expense or effectiveness of treatments should determine what course of action physicians should take. The discussion groups make up the second phase of the "Visible Fairness" study. Researchers have already found that "many" consumers agree that only cost-effective treatments should be prescribed. In addition, participants said health plans should not pay for tests or treatments with "little or no proven benefit." Project director Marge Ginsburg said many in the study approved of exclusions "spelled out in benefits packages," but are often "resent[ful]" if insurers determine that a procedure or prescription drug is not "medically necessary." She added, "They see it as very black and white. It's either a cost issue or a medical issue. If something isn't explicitly excluded and they feel it's important, they don't understand why they can't have it." During the study's first phase, researchers interviewed physicians and found that while doctors agree that they have a responsibility in controlling costs, they could not form a consensus on how that role should affect "their interaction with patients." The third phase of the study will be a community forum on the findings and is scheduled for the late spring. Researchers plan to use the study's results to make policy recommendations for physicians and health plans (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 2/5). The results of the first phase are available at http://www.sachealthdecisions.org/html/physician_survey.html.