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Patients balk at considering cost in medical decision-making

The Washington Post, March 12, 2013

In recent years, consumers have increasingly been encouraged to factor cost into their medical decisions -- by, for example, avoiding unnecessary tests, buying generic drugs and reducing visits to the emergency room. The hope is that a patient better educated and more engaged in his or her health decisions will choose options that will both promote better health and decrease costs. But a study published last month in the journal Health Affairs found that a majority of patients were reluctant to consider cost when making medical decisions, nor did they want their doctors to do so. Researchers investigated the attitudes of 211 focus group participants in Washington and Santa Monica, Calif. Participants were asked to weigh their own out-of-pocket costs as well as the costs borne by their insurer. The participants, researchers said, did not generally understand how insurance works and felt little personal responsibility for helping to solve the problem of rising health-care costs. They were unlikely to accept a less expensive treatment option, even if it was nearly as effective as a more expensive choice