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Financial Incentives and Consumer Behavior

By March 20, 2020Commentary

Healthsparq reveals results from a survey of consumers regarding the effects of incentives on care-seeking behaviors.  A little over 1000 consumers were surveyed to gather the data.   (Healthsparq survey)   According to the survey 21% of consumers now have access to a health cost transparency tool, which is critical if financial incentives are to work.  Consumers have to understand relative costs to seek out lower-cost alternatives.  Unfortunately, the numbers mean that about 80% of Americans don’t have access to or don’t use a transparency tool.  The firm estimates that 43% of spending for the commercially-insured population is for “shoppable” services.  91% of consumers say they are interested in incentives that help them save money.  81% want their health plan to give them tools to accomplish that goal and 76% want employers to do that.  55% say they will use a recommended provider for a financial reward.  66% said they would travel up to 20 miles to use a provider for which a financial incentive was available.  57% said they would ask a provider for another referral if the initial one was not to a provider for which a financial incentive could be received.

How much money does it take to change behavior?  81% of respondents said that for $50 they would go to a recommended imaging provider; 76% for $250 would go to a recommended surgeon; 72% for $25 would use telehealth instead of going to urgent care and 68% for $40 would use a recommended primary care source.  Of people who used an incentivized provider, 80% said they had a positive experience.  64% said that financial incentives to see certain providers were the most valuable part of their health plan.  Since Healthsparq designs incentive plans for employers and health plans, have to take the results with a grain of salt, but there is no question that financial incentives can move consumers to be more cost-effective in using health benefits.

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