A new HealthFirst Financial Patient Survey found that 77% of healthcare consumers say it’s important or very important to know costs before treatment and 53% want to discuss financing options before care.
Only 18% of the 1,011 Americans surveyed said their healthcare providers spoke to them about patient financial options in the last two years.
This is an especially important issue for millennials. The study found 40% of millennials said they would be very likely or likely to switch providers if a competitor offered low- or zero-interest financing for medical bills.
HealthFirst Financial, a patient financing company, found the importance of patient financing options across the board. Overall, 29% of those surveyed said they’d move to a different provider that offered “attractive payment programs,” according to HealthFirst Financial.
The survey results show a gap in what patients expect and what hospitals, medical groups and healthcare providers are delivering to patients, said KaLynn Gates, president and corporate counsel of HealthFirst Financial.
Gates suggested providers that offer financial guidance, as well as meet clinical needs of their patients, are “much more likely to thrive in this era of rising out-of-pocket costs and growing competition for patients among traditional and non-traditional providers.”
Over the past decade, consumers have taken on more healthcare costs as payers and employers have moved more members into high deductible health plans (HDHPs). One-third of employer-based plans are HDHPs and other types of plan design, including PPOs and HMOs, have also transferred more costs onto individuals through copays, coinsurance and deductibles.
This shift is affecting patients and can contribute to bad debt for providers and hospitals.. The study said 42% of respondents are very concerned or concerned about their ability to pay out-of-pocket medical bills in the next two years and that’s especially problematic for people with incomes less than $35,000. The survey found that 53% said they were concerned about how to pay a medical bill of less than $1,000, 35% were worried about paying a bill less than $500 and 16% spoke of concern about paying a bill less than $250.
These results are especially illuminating when you consider the average health insurance deductible for an employer-based plan is nearly $1,500 and out-of-pocket limits are $7,150 for an individual plan and $14,300 for a family plan.
The fact consumers are worried that they can’t afford a $1,000 medical bill or less should serve as a wake-up call to providers. Patients not paying their medical bills means more bad debt, which can leave providers in a worse financial decision. Providers creating financial payment solutions could go a long way in keeping patients happy, maintaining a steady revenue stream and limiting bad debt.