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When people make purchases, one of the first questions is “how much?” And when it comes to big purchases, like a car or vacation, there is typically some comparison shopping to confirm the best deal. Yet, when it comes to accessing care, some people aren’t aware prices can vary–let alone know how to find cost estimates ahead of time.

The lack of understanding of where to find cost information is leading people to avoid necessary healthcare services. The HealthSparq Consumer Sentiment benchmark report found 44% of respondents have avoided getting healthcare services because they didn’t know the costs. And this is even higher among 18 to 34 year olds, with 63% avoiding care.

Health plans have an opportunity to support and guide their members, more than ever before. Consumers have been asking for cost information, and starting January 1, 2023, it will be widely available as part of the CMS Transparency in Coverage mandate.

Communication creates better understanding

Costs for common procedures often vary, depending on where you get care. For example, the median price of an echocardiogram can range from $200 at one location to more than $2,500 at a nearby hospital. Members need education on price variation–which provides a natural motivator to search and compare costs before getting care. This is a good place to start with member messaging, helping them understand the importance and the potential benefit to their wallet.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behaviors dramatically shifted in a very short amount of time. Historically, it has taken 6-8 marketing or communications touchpoints to drive action. With a greater digital presence, information overload, and shifting expectations, this is increasing. Creating communications that cross multiple channels, including SMS/text as well as email, and appear throughout the year can help drive action.

Motivate behavior change with incentives

Beyond education, providing additional motivation can drive a quicker response. Rewards programs are one way motivate members to evaluate and select lower-cost or high-quality providers. An August 2022 survey conducted in partnership with Ribnik research, found only 17% of respondents with commercial insurance have an incentive program from their health plan or employer. Yet 9 in 10 are interested in a rewards program. Furthermore, 64% of those with commercial insurance are very likely to choose a designated high-quality provider for an incentive.

The time is now to start educating members on the new or improved tools that will be available next year. Help your members understand not just what is available, but also how cost transparency can benefit their wallet. Consider leveraging a motivator, like rewards, to drive members to take the first step and search before getting care–all in support of long-term behavior change.