Innovative health care technologies and treatments have contributed to substantial improvements in patient health outcomes in recent decades, but rising health insurance premiums have sparked concerns about health care affordability. Insurance premiums provide a critical funding stream for new health care innovation, creating an intrinsic link between annual premium increases and the development of new health care technologies. This raises an important policy question: How does concern about rising premiums impact willingness to pay for new medical technologies that promote beneficial gains in patient morbidity and mortality?
A white paper written by the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) summarizes a recent survey that explored whether health care consumers and large employers would be willing to continue to pay for new medical technologies associated with significant improvements in patient health outcomes.
The white paper highlights several key takeaways from the survey, including:
- Consumers and employers are concerned about affordability, with most reporting that they believe continued increases in premiums will make insurance unaffordable.
- Given a choice, a majority of consumers and employers were not willing to pay a 5% increase in their premium to support access to new technologies, even those with substantial advances in health outcomes.
- There are significant differences within consumer populations’ willingness to pay for new medical innovation, signaling a need to ensure the market reflects consumer priorities and preferences.
- Consumer and employer willingness to pay varies among medical technologies.
- Consumers report a strong desire for broad societal access to health care, but low willingness to pay increased annual insurance premiums so that others can gain access to new health care technologies.
In addition, the white paper identifies important policy implications that health care decision-makers should consider when evaluating policy options to curb rising health spending and promote affordability. The authors recommend that potential policy solutions should:
- Support medical innovation, as it is often cost effective over time and contributes to improved patient health outcomes.
- Provide choice to accommodate the varying priorities and preferences among consumers.
- Protect policy incentives that promote the development of new technologies for vulnerable patient populations.