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The High Cost of Healthcare is Keeping Patients from Seeking Care

Many Americans cannot afford the high cost of healthcare.

pills on a pile of money: high cost of healthcareIt goes without saying that if you have a serious illness, or are dealing with a chronic illness, it will be harder for you to improve, or even maintain, your health if you cannot afford doctor visits, medications, tests and other healthcare expenses. Unfortunately, this is happening all too often in the US as many patients struggle with the high cost of healthcare.

Patients who struggle financially may delay or skip care, or may be burdened with large amounts of medical debt from unpaid bills. Out of pocket expenses, including insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and the costs of uncovered services, can easily and quickly put a patient into financial trouble and medical debt.

Medical debt is linked to decreased access to healthcare. When patients skip or delay care it not only impacts their current health, it can lead to deteriorating health and higher healthcare costs down the road as their medical conditions worsen when they are left untreated.

It’s a shame that many Americans may find themselves in a position where they have to choose between healthcare and putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads.

How many Americans are worried they cannot afford the high cost of healthcare?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Below are the results from 3 surveys of American adults.

1,000 were surveyed for a study conducted by 20|20/CarePayment. The majority of respondents are struggling, or will struggle, to cover medical bills:

  • 61% of Americans have no money saved for their healthcare expenses
  • 64% report they have avoided or delayed medical care in the last year due to expected costs

survey by Ipsos/Amino of over 1,000 people found that many are worried about medical bills:

  • 55% stated they have received a medical bill for which they did not have money to pay
  • 37% reported they could not afford an unexpected medical bill for more than $100 without going into debt

A less extreme picture is reported in a survey of over 6,600 Americans conducted by The Federal Reserve System. Their survey found that:

  • 25% reported skipping medical treatments due to cost in the prior year
  • The number of patients who skip medical care due to finances has declined 7% since 2013

Health plan deductibles leave many with unaffordably high healthcare bills.

pile of paper medical bills: high cost of healthcareOut of pocket costs for patients continues to rise, in many cases due to the widespread use of HDHPs – high deductible health plans. A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average deductible for those with HDHPs is $2,100 for an individual, and $4,364 for a family. People with a non-HDHP have a lower deductible – with average deductibles of $1,478 for an individual.

Americans are worried about affording their plan’s deductible. Responses to the 20|20/CarePayment survey showed:

  • 69% reported that their deductible was at least “somewhat difficult” to afford
  • 22% stated it was “very difficult” or “impossible” to afford their deductible

Read our blog post to learn more about HDHPs and how they can cause people to delay or skip needed care.

Americans aren’t saving enough money.

These high deductibles are beyond the means of many Americans who don’t have enough money saved to cover healthcare and other unexpected expenses.

The Federal Reserve System survey found that many Americans don’t have money saved for emergencies:

  • 44% do not have the money to cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense
  • The percent of Americans in this category has declined 6% since 2013

Money is playing a big role in people’s healthcare decisions.

Responses to the 20|20/CarePayment survey demonstrate that money concerns dictate health decisions:

  • 44% of people would not receive needed medical care, even if it put their health at risk, if they would have to spend more than $500
  • Of those who reported delaying or avoiding medical care at least once in the last year due to costs (64% of total surveyed):
    • 23% avoided or delayed follow up care after an inpatient hospital stay
    • 18% avoided or delayed a wellness visit to a doctor
    • 12% avoided or delayed prescribed rehabilitation or therapy after a surgery or procedure

survey of over 1,000 people conducted by Ipsos/Amino found that many are avoiding the doctor to save money:

  • 19% reported that not going to the doctor is their main strategy to avoid paying high medical bills
  • 56% avoid the doctor altogether

High healthcare bills are creating fear and stress.

The Ipsos/Amino survey illustrates how much stress high medical bills are causing patients:

  • 53% think a serious illness diagnosis is just as bad as getting a large medical bill they can’t afford.
  • An additional 10% think getting a large medical bill is actually worse than a serious illness.

What can help patients who can’t afford high healthcare bills?

Zero-interest payment plans, such as those provided by CarePayment (CP), can help patients manage healthcare expenses. These plans allow patients and families to pay off their medical debt in a manageable way without ruining their credit.

Do patient-friendly payment plans have an impact?

Yes!

A recent study compared 1,000 people using CP to manage their hospital-related healthcare debt to 1,100+ who did not use CP. The results are encouraging. Researchers found that when compared to others with medical debt, people who use CP were significantly less likely to skip preventive care screenings due to the expense.

In addition, CP users were less likely to:

  • Not fill a prescription due to cost
  • Skip or avoid needed medical tests and care due to cost
  • Have a medical problem but not go to a doctor/clinic
  • Struggle to pay for household necessities
  • Delay education or career plans because of medical bills.

Patients using CP also reported improved social outcomes. 26.5% non-CP users reported difficulties paying for necessities (e.g. food or heat) due to their medical bills in the last two years; only 14.4% of patients with CP reported similar problems.

Unfortunately, CP and similar programs are not available at all hospital and doctor practices and currently don’t cover prescription drugs.

What can you do if you are worried about the high cost of healthcare?

If you owe money to a hospital or doctor, ask them if they offer any kind of zero interest payment plan which will allow you to pay off your debt in a manner that is manageable for you.

There are also steps you can take to minimize your out of pocket expenses – read our blog post for details on recommended steps.

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