The low affordability of health care is causing patients to delay treatments

Mar 29, 2016 | Healthcare Industry News

Despite industry-wide efforts to lower health care costs, a significant number of patients still feel that treatment isn't within financial reach. Google recently conducted a survey for CareCredit, a health care financing company, finding that 52.6 percent of respondents have delayed elective health care or dental treatment to avoid the costs.

The findings from Google
According to the survey, respondents who procrastinated on care ranged in age. The survey pointed to the existence of health care financing options, a choice that nearly 44 percent said they were unaware of. It also reported that 27 percent would have sought treatment sooner if they had known about health care financing options. CareCredit concluded that these results show a need to better promote these financial resources.

"Consumers need to be aware of financing choices that are available for health-related expenses, and to have proactive conversations with their providers to ensure they fully understand their payment options," Dave Fasoli, the CEO of CareCredit, said in a press release. "Most individuals and their families may not feel prepared for an unexpected medical, dental or veterinary expense, and health care financing can help enable access to care."

The press release outlined how consumers can improve their own finances to better afford health care, emphasizing the need for planning options and budgets. The statement compared this effort to what consumers already do with other saving and financial planning to achieve personal goals.

This is especially important as the survey also demonstrates how few patients can actually afford health care, reporting that 44.7 of respondents said they would not be able to afford an elective health care treatment that costs $1,000. According to Healthcare Finance News, despite the study being conducted to support CareCredit's business objectives, the findings echo previous research.

How many patients can't afford their care?
For one, the Health Care Affordability Index report in November of 2015 found that 53 percent of privately insured adults with low incomes said they can't afford health care. It also showed that 32 percent of higher-income adults struggle to pay insurance deductibles, which has become an increasingly common challenge. The index reported that 43 percent of adults felt their deductibles were placing them under an "undue financial burden."

A 2015 study from Crowe Horwath LLP also explored this pattern, reporting that the amount of insured self-pay patients had increased 13 percent in one year. Jordan Levitt, the co-founder of credit check vendor Payor Logic, told Healthcare Finance news that self-pay patients can pay as much as 30 percent of their annual income on health care costs.

For those receiving health plans from federal or state exchanges still pay as much as 10 to 25 percent of their annual incomes on out-of-pocket costs, including premiums and deductibles, according to the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center.

With more patients struggling to pay, providers have had to find the means to ensure payment, like administering credit checks. Even though there is an industry-wide shift dedicated to promoting quality care, which is meant to help lower costs, many treatments and services are still too expensive for a majority of patients. Understandably, providers are worried about how they can achieve both – improving care while protecting their bottom line.

For solutions on improving your financial efficiency, contact Professional Medical Services today.