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Health Aff (Millwood). 2007 Mar-Apr;26(2):w217-26. Epub 2007 Feb 6.

Self-pay markets in health care: consumer Nirvana or caveat emptor?

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  • 1Center for Studying Health System Change, Washington, DC, USA. htu@hschange.org


As consumers face more incentives to make cost-conscious medical care decisions, some policymakers cite self-pay markets as models for consumer shopping. An analysis of the LASIK market revealed limited shopping overall, despite the fact that patients pay the full cost. For other self-pay procedures, consumers shop even less, for reasons ranging from urgency, to costs of obtaining price quotes, to quality concerns that prompt many consumers to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. Given that consumer shopping is not prevalent in most self-pay markets, we expect the extent of shopping to be even more limited for many services covered by insurance.

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