(406) 248-6178 Montana • Wyoming • Idaho • North Dakota  

Health Benefits / Medical IQ

A June 26, 2014, article by Business Wire, reported that Americans receive a failing grade when it comes to their medical IQ. Over 60% of patients don’t know basic information about their doctor. Our health is personal. But, when it comes to navigating the system that cares for us, many American aren’t making the grade. A new survey from the Vitals Index reveals that while 2/3rds of people perceive themselves to be a savvy health care consumer, many don’t know how to find quality care at a good value.

In fact, more than 60% of respondents didn’t know basic quality information about their doctor, such as which medical school he/she attended. Younger consumers were the least likely to know which school their doctor attended, and over 10% of consumers said they didn’t care.

Besides not heeding quality indicators regarding providers, consumers were also blind to cost-savings for their care. Just 1/3rd said they negotiate bills with a doctor or hospital. Similarly, only 1 in 3 know the cost of a medical service or procedure before receiving care. Women (39%) were more likely than men (29%) to know the upfront cost of a procedure or doctor visit.

“At a time when the price of care can vary by thousands of dollars from clinic to clinic and high-deductibles are more common, consumers need to know how to compare prices before they go see a doctor,” said Mitch Rothschild, CEO of Vitals. “No shopper would buy a TV without knowing how good it is and how much it costs. We should buy health care with that same level of transparency.”

But at a time when health insurance is mandated for all under the Affordable Care Act, the survey revealed that common terms related to covered care are not understood. Less than half of the respondents could accurately define the terms co-insurance and formulary. Only 66% could define the term deductible, while fewer (23%) could define co-insurance.

Studies in the past have shown that patients who are engaged and know more about their health care have lower costs and better health outcomes. The Vitals Index survey found a direct correlation between health care savvy and household income. Households with incomes under $50K were the least likely to know a doctor’s background or understand insurance terms. They were also 50% less likely to negotiate medical bills compared to higher-income households.

One bright spot is that about 80% of consumers do regularly ask for generic equivalents of their prescriptions to save money and 67% of the people know retail clinics offer flu shots cheaper than most doctor offices or hospitals. The Montana Chamber has endorsed the Associated Employers Group Benefit Plan & Trust who works closely with member companies, employees, and brokers to educate those covered by the Plan on their benefits and how they work.