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Patients Willing to Ditch Doctors to Save Money

Doctor greating patient

We patients tend to be stubbornly loyal to our trusted physicians. We respect their experience and seek their advice.

Unless we can save a few bucks by switching doctors. Then some of us are out the door before the receptionist can tell us to have a seat.

In a new poll of 713 people, as many as 1 in 3 say they'd rather pay less for their health plan, even if it meant swapping doctors.

Half of those who'd make the switch say they'd do it to save $500 to $1,000 annually on their health plan premium. The other half are more loyal: They wouldn't ditch their doctor unless they saved between $1,000 and $3,000 or more, the survey found.

More than 40 percent of those polled say they wouldn't change their physician despite such savings.

The survey was done by the website HealthPocket, which rates and compares health care plans. Steve Zaleznick, the site's executive director for consumer strategy and development, says researchers were surprised at how receptive consumers were to switching doctors to save money.

Apparently, doctors are surprised, too, by the reasons for which patients change practices. In a separate study by a health research group in late 2011 , doctors believed that 80 percent of patients switched providers because they moved or had a change in insurance. Interestingly, only 38 percent of consumers say they changed doctors for those reasons.

In fact, more than half (58 percent) of the consumers surveyed say they switched doctors for better treatment or service. Yet doctors thought that only 22 percent of patients left for better service, according to the study by the Altarum Institute, a nonprofit health systems research group in Washington.

In case you were wondering, the Physicians Foundation conducted a survey last year to find out whether patients were very satisfied with their family physician or primary-care doctor. Based on their visits in the past year, most of those surveyed said they were.

In the HealthPocket poll, researchers wanted to assess patient satisfaction ahead of the changes taking effect next year with the Affordable Care Act. Other than cost, consumers mainly choose certain health plans because their doctor participates in that plan's network of providers.

On the HealthPocket website, a category was added that enables consumers to review and compare health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) to see which plans their doctors accept.

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