Adriana Samper, Janet A. Schwartz; Price Inferences for Sacred versus Secular Goods: Changing the Price of Medicine Influences Perceived Health Risk. J Consum Res 2013; 39 (6): 1343-1358. doi: 10.1086/668639
The current research examines how the price of a medication influences consumers’ beliefs about their own disease risk—a critical question with new laws mandating greater price transparency for health care goods and services. Four studies reveal that consumers believe that lifesaving health goods are priced according to perceived need (i.e., communal-sharing principles) and that price consequently influences risk perceptions and intentions to consume care. Specifically, consumers believe that lower medication prices signal greater accessibility to anyone in need, and such accessibility thus makes them feel that their own self-risk is elevated, increasing consumption. The reverse is true for higher prices. Importantly, these effects are limited to self-relevant health threats and reveal that consumers make inconsistent assumptions about risk, prevalence, and need with price exposure. These findings suggest that while greater price transparency may indeed reduce consumption of higher-priced goods, it may do so for both necessary and unnecessary care.