Study: Pricey Predictive Health Tests Worth It

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Americans may need to be pinching pennies post-recession, but they’re willing to pay for costly medical tests under most circumstances.

According to a survey conducted by Tufts Medical Center, roughly 76% of people indicated that they would take a hypothetical test to find out if they will later develop Alzheimer’s, arthritis, breast cancer or prostate cancer. On average, participants said they were willing to pay $300 to $600 for the test, depending on the disease in question and the test’s overall accuracy.

"While we have to proceed cautiously in this area, given that tests have costs and risks as well as benefits, our study suggests that many people value information, both for its own sake and because they will adjust lifestyle and behavior choices accordingly, " Peter J. Neumann, lead author of the study, said in a press release.

The findings are based on answers from 1,463 adults who were asked in an online survey if they would take a hypothetical predictive blood test for one of the four aforementioned diseases. Researchers specified that the test would not be covered by their insurance and, as such, participants were also asked how much they would be willing to pay for a test themselves. They were also asked to provide information on their socioeconomic status, personal health record, risk attitudes and behaviors.

Answers varied for many reasons, most significantly depending on the severity of the illness being measured. Broken down test by test, 87% of male respondents said they would pay to be screened for prostate cancer. Eighty-one percent of female respondents felt the same way about a breast cancer test. Seventy-nine percent would test for arthritis and 72% would check for Alzheimer’s disease. Similarly, participants would pay the most for the prostate cancer test (on average $600) and the least for the arthritis test ($300).

Responses weren’t only influenced by the severity of the measured disease, though.

Those who said they would not want to be tested expressed concerns over the cost, but also said they were reluctant to undergo testing for fear of having to live with the knowledge of one’s disease risk. They were also turned off by a lack of preventive measures. (This may explain why tests for Alzheimer’s, which currently has no cure, received the least amount of interest.)

Demographics also influenced Americans’ willingness to pay for testing. Unsurprisingly, the amount of money patients were willing to pay out of pocket for tests increased with income levels. Generally, older respondents, women, those with a bachelor’s or higher degree, and those with healthier behaviors were less inclined to undergo testing, even if it was free.

Neumann explained that the survey was conducted as a means to influence health care officials to build better policies and make better decisions about coverage and reimbursement.

One finding from the study indicated that test results may have an impact on the recipient’s future behavior. When faced with positive test results, respondents said they would change certain aspects of their lives, such as spending more time with loved ones (51%), putting their finances in order (48%) or traveling more (31%).

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