Texas Tech University

Researchers Examining Consumer Perceptions of Health Care, Affordability

Glenys Young

August 27, 2020

Deidre Popovich, Catherine Langford and Kelli Frias are supported by a three-year, $1.2 million grant.

Amid the national battle over the Affordable Care Act, two Texas Tech University faculty members are helping to address the root causes of unaffordable health care.


Thanks to a three-year, $1.2 million grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX), and in partnership with American University, Deidre Popovich and Catherine Langford will examine perceptions of health care providers, health insurance and its affordability in Texas, particularly among Latinx populations.


Popovich, an assistant professor of marketing in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business, specializes in consumer psychology, including how decision contexts and information cues can influence consumer decision-making and self-control. Langford, an associate professor of communication studies in the College of Media & Communication, focuses on rhetoric and argumentation in public messages. They will partner with former Texas Tech faculty member Kelli Frias, the project's lead primary investigator, now an assistant professor of marketing in American University's Kogod School of Business. While at Texas Tech, Frias served on the President's Hispanic Council and the Hispanic-Serving Institution Committee.


"We have assembled an interdisciplinary team of experts, primarily from marketing, to examine decision-making and the influence of marketing strategies to improve patient outcomes," Frias said. "The goal of this research is to disentangle the rhetoric and shared meanings associated with the affordability construct, its impact on quality and price perception and its impact on consumption patterns.

"Imagine a consumer examining the simple cost and quality transparency data. Consumers, or patients, may be reluctant to choose a lower-cost but equivalent-quality provider because of the perception that lower cost might equal lower quality. What drives this perception? What information can be presented to change the decision-making process? What plays the most significant role in decision making: information presentation, environmental factors, benefit design or personal financial factors? How could data or information be presented that it could influence consumer decision-making to a higher-quality choice?"

The research will be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, the researchers will collect data through in-depth interviews, focus groups and surveys to gain initial insights about how consumers interpret and use health care quality and cost information. In Phase 2, they will test consumption patterns based upon the findings of Phase 1.

A lack of patient understanding and involvement in health-related decision-making has substantial short-term and long-term impacts on healthful choices, related communities and provider stakeholders, the researchers said. As such, their work is designed to provide multiple outcomes to various constituents – e.g., the academic community, public health officials, health care providers and health insurance providers.

Of particular interest is the Latino community.

"We hope to understand more about the practice of border-crossing for health care between Texas and Mexico as an approach to facilitate health care service outcomes," Frias said. "In conjunction with our research efforts, the research team also will engage additional participants who represent the Hispanic and Latino community in Texas to provide insights about their lived experiences. In particular, these efforts will identify the rhetoric, consumption patterns and shared meanings associated with health care and affordability for this community of Texans."

BCBSTX embarked on collaborations with key research institutions across the state to identify solutions to health care challenges that can lead to a high-cost health care system. The multifaceted projects will support initiatives in both Illinois and Texas that help improve quality and coordination of care delivery, balance inequities and eliminate waste in the system.

"Failure to address access and affordability of health care has real consequences," said Dr. Paul Hain, chief medical officer and divisional senior vice president of market delivery for BCBSTX. "We need to challenge the status quo by bringing transformative research and ideas to the table. By collaborating with a diverse set of institutions and researchers who are embedded in and understand the communities we're serving, we can better identify and develop solutions that tackle high health care costs at its foundation."

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas – the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas – is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with nearly 80,000 physicians and health care practitioners and 500 hospitals to serve 5 million members in all 254 counties. BCBSTX is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, the country's largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. BCBSTX is the health insurance provider for Texas Tech employees.