5 years ago

Public Mistrust of the U.S. Health Care System’s Profit Motives: Mixed-Methods Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial

Manshu Yang, Wizdom Powell, Ela Pathak-Sen, Kristin L. Carman, Marthe R. Gold, Maureen Maurer, Rikki Mangrum, Jennifer Richmond



Decision makers are increasingly tasked with reducing health care costs, but the public may be mistrustful of these efforts. Public deliberation helps gather input on these types of issues by convening a group of diverse individuals to learn about and discuss values-based dilemmas.


To explore public perceptions of health care costs and how they intersect with medical mistrust.

Design and Participants

This mixed-methods study analyzed data from a randomized controlled trial including four public deliberation groups (n = 96) and a control group (n = 348) comprising English-speaking adults aged 18 years and older. Data were collected in 2012 in four U.S. regions.


We used data from four survey items to compare attitude shifts about costs among participants in deliberation groups to participants in the control group. We qualitatively analyzed deliberation transcripts to identify themes related to attitude shifts and to provide context for quantitative results about attitude shifts.

Key Results

Deliberation participants were significantly more likely than control group participants to agree that doctors and patients should consider cost when making treatment decisions (β = 0.59; p < 0.01) and that people should consider the effect on group premiums when making treatment decisions (β = 0.48; p < 0.01). Qualitatively, participants mistrusted the health care system’s profit motives (e.g., that systems prioritize making money over patient needs); however, after grappling with patient/doctor autonomy and learning about and examining their own views related to costs during the process of deliberation, they largely concluded that payers have the right to set some boundaries to curb costs.


Individuals who are informed about costs may be receptive to boundaries that reduce societal health care costs, despite their mistrust of the health care system’s profit motives, especially if decision makers communicate their rationale in a transparent manner. Future work should aim to develop transparent policies and practices that earn public trust.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-017-4172-1

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-017-4172-1

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