Health-care experts may assume that insurance shields most Americans from the actual costs of their health care, leaving them unconcerned about cost effectiveness. And, in the past, the public seemed relatively disinterested in talking about efforts to contain cost. However, this research raises the question: if we help citizens learn about and deliberate over approaches to contain costs, could they contribute to policy solutions?
For this study on curbing health-care costs, average Americans, aged 40 to 65, gathered, in a series of four extended focus groups, to address cost containment in health care. When given the opportunity to learn about and deliberate over various policy proposals, focus group participants became not only willing but eager to consider complicated approaches for containing costs. And they did so thoughtfully and civilly.
The research, while modest in scope, provides substantial clues for health-care leaders and policymakers regarding the approaches that the public may be more willing to accept and those that they may resist. It also provides guidance to enable leaders to better communicate with and engage the public on cost-containment approaches.
Participants in the study also believed that other members of the public, as well as medical professionals and insurers, could benefit from similar opportunities to deliberate. While participants didn't reach consensus, they all reported a better understanding of viewpoints different from their own. Many remarked that the civility and quality of their deliberations was evidence that health-care leaders and policymakers could compromise.