Americans trust pharmacies and drug stores a whole lot more than they do health plans, according to a survey from the Better Business Bureau and Gallup.

However, the percentage of people with lots of trust in pharmacies and drug stores fell by 9 points between September 2007 and April 2008. The proportion of Americans trusting health care insurers stayed the same in that seven-month period.

What factors affected Americans’ trust in businesses in the spring of 2008? 77% of consumers cited that increasing prices for food, health care and energy had negative impacts.

What would strengthen trust in business? 86% of Americans said it would be helpful for businesses to allow credible third-party assessments of their performance.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Clearly, gas stations’ popularity has waned among American consumers, with the percent of people trusting that business falling from 26% to 22%…not much of a different proportion than Americans who trust health care insurers, who are trusted about as much as people trust auto repair and electronic shops.

But what of the beloved pharmacy? What factor(s) might have intervened between late 2007 and the second quarter of 2008?

New health plan terms kicked in. We know that prices on many pharmaceutical drugs rose this year, and that deeper tiering of drug benefit prices by pharmacy benefit managers also occurred. And of course, health plan premiums rose again for employees and their families as employers allocated more cost increases to insureds.

People are feeling the price pain at the point-of-purchase.

Still, the pharmacy remains one of the most beloved health care touchpoints for consumers. But as consumers feel the pinch of price across consumer goods categories, “value” has to go beyond price to include service levels and useful benefits. With the growth of the chain drug store on virtually every suburban corner in the U.S., competition will heat up on the basis of these value-added services and convenience factors.