People who choose to have high-deductible health insurance plans are often regarded as savvy health care price shoppers. A new study proves this notion wrong as there is more to these people than being practical patients.

While high-deductible insurance plans have cheaper premiums, enrollees usually have to shed more out-of-pocket costs when the need for medical care arises. With this, researchers believe that these patients tend to spend less by shopping around for healthcare providers that offer the lowest price. The new study, however, does not necessarily reflect this.

The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that high-deductible insurance holders avail lesser health care services because they face higher costs.

"Simply increasing a deductible, which gives enrollees skin in the game, appears insufficient to facilitate price shopping," the researchers wrote.

High-deductible and traditional plan holders equally price shop for providers and both have similar attitudes when it comes to pricing and service quality.

The researchers performed their study by surveying 1,800 U.S. insurers aged 18 to 64 years old. Approximately 1,000 of these participants had high-deductible plans and about 852 had other policies.

The results of the investigations show that 60 percent of high-deductible plan holders think that there is a wide discrepancy between health care costs and quality among different providers. About 17 percent believe that doctors who charge higher can provide better services and about 71 percent think that it is important to consider out-of-pocket costs when choosing a doctor.

Surprisingly, the results for other plan holders did not differ significantly.

"We thought that we would see greater price shopping, we didn't expect to find no difference at all," says co-author Neeraj Sood from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

In another study, published online in the journal Medical Care, researchers found that high-deductible insurance holders were less likely to undergo imaging tests. A difference of 1.8 points was noted between these patients and those who have other health insurance plans.

The rise of subscription to high-deductible health plan has partially been influenced by the notion that cost-sharing obligations will drive enrollees to shop for health care. If price shopping is to be considered as a vital part of the policy goal, then there is a great need for patients to have better access to price information and novel strategies to engage enrollees.

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