When money is saved by reducing healthcare costs, where do US primary care physicians think the money goes?

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Physician willingness to reduce medical costs is mixed. Some physicians might be unwilling to reduce medical costs because they are concerned about where the savings would go.


To determine whether primary care physicians might be less willing to choose a less expensive, less effective cancer screening alternative if they believe that the money saved goes to insurance companies.


Anonymous mailed survey.


A total of 865 US primary care physicians.

Main outcome measures

Responses to one of several clinical vignettes presenting a choice between a less expensive, less effective cancer screening option and a more expensive, more effective alternative and responses to where physicians thought the savings might go if they chose the cheaper alternative.


Fifty-three percent of physicians chose the most expensive screening alternative. In aggregate, physicians responded that more of any money saved would go to the managers or owners of insurance companies than to increased clinical services or reduced insurance premiums. Physicians choosing the more expensive screening test were more likely to believe that money saved from choosing the less expensive test would go to insurance company profits and salaries rather than to increased clinical services or reduced premiums (P < .001).


Although US primary care physicians vary in where they think money saved in healthcare goes, most believe that more of it goes to the salaries of insurance company executives and the profits of insurance company owners than to improved clinical services or reduced premiums. The more physicians believe that this is where the money goes, the less willing they are to reduce healthcare costs.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Asch, DA; Jepson, C; Hershey, JC; Baron, J; Ubel, PA

Published Date

  • June 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 438 - 442

PubMed ID

  • 12816173

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1936-2692

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1088-0224


  • eng