Survey: Most patients aren't budgeting for out-of-pocket healthcare costs
Nearly two-thirds of 1,006 respondents to a survey conducted by Amino and Ipsos said that receiving a medical bill they cannot afford is as bad or even worse than being diagnosed with a serious medical condition.
More than a third said that they would not be able to afford a medical bill of $100 or more without taking on debt and fewer than a quarter said they would be able to afford a medical bill of $2,000 or more.
- Fewer than a half of respondents said that they set aside $50 or more each month for healthcare costs, although fewer than 15% budgeting for healthcare were developing an emergency fund.
Recent efforts to improve healthcare quality and reduce costs have made patient education and engagement a core component. For instance, wellness programs offered by payers and employers intend to help patients stop smoking, lose weight, manage chronic conditions and seek preventive health screenings. However, patient education and education initiatives have mostly ignored one area where patients could use some help: budgeting for healthcare costs.
“So many of us aren’t thinking about healthcare as a personal finance issue when we could be a broken bone or serious diagnosis away from debt,” Amino CEO David Vivero told Healthcare Dive in an email. He thinks that educating patients about the importance of saving for out-of-pocket costs or researching the cost of a procedure could help to reduce stress that so many experience when faced with medical bills.
Consumers have taken on a greater share of their healthcare costs as high-deductible health plans (HDHP) become more popular. HDHPs covered almost 90% of all patients with a health plan purchased through an Affordable Care Act exchange in 2015, according to a February 2016 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The share of patients with employer-based insurance covered by HDHPs increased from 11% in 2010 to 29% in 2016, according to a Mercer survey published in October 2016.
Some research suggests that HDHPs encourage patients to become more price-conscious consumers of healthcare. For instance, a September 2016 study from the Health Care Cost Institute found patients with HDHPs were 21% more likely than patients with other health plans to use generic rather than brand name drugs.
Consumer-driven health plans could help to improve patient choice and transparency in healthcare pricing. However, as lawmakers consider healthcare reform legislation, they might want to consider policies that empower consumers to make budget-friendly choices. “People are warming up to healthcare budgeting, but are still nascent consumers in need of direction,” Vivero said.
- Amino Survey shows Americans are seriously worried about healthcare costs—but don’t know what to do about it
- Health Affairs Health Policy Brief: High-Deductible Health Plans
- Mercer Mercer Survey: Health Benefit Cost Growth Slows to 2.4% in 2016 as Enrollment in High-Deductible Plans Climbs
- Healthcare Dive Study: Patients with consumer-driven health plans pay more, consume less