Empowering Health Care Consumers

Grantee Name

Public Agenda

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers

Publication Date

May 2018

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

February 2016 – June 2017

As health care costs continue to grow, patients are increasingly facing higher premiums, deductibles, and copayments—leading to more out-of-pocket costs for their health care.

Growing patient cost burdens have increased the interest in price transparency and access to price information for health care services. To assess how people are seeking and using available price information in health care decisions, Public Agenda conducted a national survey for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) on this topic, publishing the results in March 2015. RWJF subsequently funded Public Agenda to repeat the national survey in 2016, with NYHealth awarding Public Agenda a paired grant to conduct a robust New York State companion survey in conjunction with the national project.

Under this grant, Public Agenda enhanced the national survey with new questions and conducted a New York-specific survey. By determining the extent to which New Yorkers are seeking and using price information, the findings can help stakeholders understand the factors that may drive price transparency and the barriers to uptake, as well as inform future developments in price transparency in New York State.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

 The New York State results closely mirrored the national data. Among the findings:

  • Nearly half of New Yorkers (48%) have tried to find information about health care prices before getting care, especially those with deductibles or who are uninsured.
  • Only 20% of New Yorkers have tried to compare prices of more than one provider before getting care, but of those who have tried, 65% chose less expensive care and 59% report saving money.
  • Most New Yorkers (67%) do not believe that higher price equals better care or higher quality.
  • About 55% of New Yorkers do not know that doctors’ prices can vary for the same service, and a similar figure does not know that hospitals’ prices can vary for the same service.
  • There is strong public support for states, insurers, employers, and medical providers to play a larger role in helping people obtain and understand price information. For example, 80% of New Yorkers think states should provide people with price information, and 66% favor doctors or their staff members discussing prices with patients.
  • Websites are not the most commonly used source for price information: 49% of New Yorkers who have tried to find price information asked a friend, relative, or colleague, and 50% contacted their insurance company by phone or used their insurer’s website to find prices. Only 18% used the internet for sources other than their insurance company’s website.

To further disseminate the study findings, RWJF organized a national webinar in May 2017, which included speakers from RWJF, NYHealth, Consumer Reports, Altarum Institute, Public Agenda, and the Catalyst for Payment Reform. The report received attention from State policymakers and was cited in a presentation by the New York State Department of Health at the New Digital Government Summit in September 2017 at a briefing on New York’s approaches to providing information to consumers. NYHealth used the information gleaned from the surveys to develop new projects in 2018 to connect people to health care information at the doctor’s office and to engage providers in facilitating greater use of transparency tools and resources, with grants to New York Chapter, American College of Physicians; New York State Academy of Family Physicians; and Avalere Health.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: NYHealth co-funded this project with RWJF, which provided $393,084 for the national survey.