Americans are more aware of their own health care spending than in the past, but they are still not saving enough in anticipation of health care costs, a new study suggests.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by Alegeus, a consumer-directed health care company based in Waltham, Massachusetts, found a modest increase in the average American’s awareness of health costs based on their responses to questions about whether they take cost into account when choosing health care services and whether they compare competing options.
The average score in 2016 was 54.4 out of 100, up from 48.4 last year.
As employers are increasingly shifting the cost of health care onto employees in the form of high-deductible insurance policies and consumer-driven policies, more people are faced with the cost of care and are forced to try to find lower-cost providers and medication, so a steady increase in awareness is expected.
Even though three-quarters of respondents said they were very focused on trying to reduce health costs, many simply don’t know enough about the health care system to do it effectively.
“(M)ore than half of those consumers still don’t understand their cost responsibility for a given service until they receive the bill after the fact,” the report stated.
Not a priority
Consumers still do not evaluate health care spending with as keen an eye towards savings as they do other expenses, such as buying a TV, a car, a cellphone or a vacation, the report found. The average score for all four of those purchases was above 70.
When it comes to saving for medical costs, however, Americans have a lot more work to do. The average score is 21.8, far lower than the level of savings discipline exhibited towards other major costs, such as retirement (41.5), college (29.8) or general emergency expenses (41.6).
“It’s clear that consumers will need significant education, tools and support as they assume more financial responsibility for health care costs,” said Alegeus CEO Steve Auerbach.
“Although our index demonstrates that health care consumers are making some progress, they still have a long way to go.”