Keep Me Alive, But Make It A Bargain

People enjoy eating food. They don’t enjoy being hospitalized. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that many respondents to a new Harris Poll decry hospital fees as “unreasonably high,” while few are so indignant about packaged-food prices (see the chart). Marketers in other businesses should be grateful to the healthcare sector for soaking up so much of consumers’ antipathy. The number of respondents who think cars are unreasonably pricey has fallen significantly since 2000, when it stood at 48 percent; so has the number who think clothing is unduly expensive (22 percent in 2000). Neither cars nor clothes have greatly improved in the past four years, even as the medical field has found new ways to save people’s lives. When it comes to healthcare, though, rising prices seem uniquely unjust. Thus, 60 percent of respondents favor federal price controls on prescription drugs; 55 percent back them for hospital charges and 48 percent for doctor bills. Then again, a Bolshevik 20 percent want price controls for clothing, 26 percent back them for packaged foods and 28 percent favor them for cars.