Savvy consumers do a lot of comparison shopping — for food, clothing,homes, cars and just about anything else that can be purchased.

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But there’s one area where comparison shopping is difficult, ifnot impossible — health care. According to Modern Healthcare, there are lots of reasonswhy consumers aren’t very successful at getting their health carethrough the same efficient methods they use to buy othernecessities.

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One startling statistic: In 2011, of the health care servicesconsumers paid for out of pocket, only 7 percent were services theycould actually shop for. Another disturbing bit of information isthat in 2016, 43 states did not have laws mandating a minimumstandard for mandating patients have access to health care priceinformation.

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People do shop around, when they can. A 2014 study from PublicAgenda and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 56 percentof Americans tried to find price information before receivinghealth care; 59 percent opted for a less expensive alternative whenthey compared prices — and a new study from PublicAgenda finds that although 59 percent of Texas residents try to shop in advance to learn how muchmedical procedures and services will cost, they can’t always getanswers.

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It probably doesn’t help, either, that hospitals are pushing patients to fork over funds for medicalcare before they’ve even had the procedure or treatment inquestion; it’s tough to look around for a cheaper plan when you’rebeing expected to pay up front — even if that does mean that atleast you’re getting an estimate of the cost in advance.

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Another reason people may not be so eager to shop around when itcomes to care: cheaper services may not be covered by the shopper’sinsurance. And then there’s the nagging worry about whether thecheaper care is less effective than treatment at a more expensivefacility — that old bugaboo about “you get what you pay for” candiscourage people from trying, as can the fear factor of riskingtreatment with a doctor or a facility the patient doesn’t know,compared with one that’s familiar.

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A recent Modern Healthcare article points out that worry over the qualityof care from a lower-cost provider can actually play out in reallife, and also increase the worry and aggravation of the patienttrying to go a cheaper route. Often, the problems inherent intrying to buck a system to save a few (or many) bucks can result inpatients simply foregoing medical care altogether.

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A little more disturbing information: according to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent $4,290on health care in 2014. Considering 83 percent of people had anemployer-based health plan with a deductible in 2016, and theKaiser Family Foundation pegs the average deductible in 2016 at$1,478, that certainly sounds like a lot.

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But when you consider that the BLS also says there’s been a 195percent increase in consumer prices for inpatient services from1997 to 2016 and a 200 percent price increase for outpatientservices over the same period, it’s not really all thatsurprising.

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