35% of Consumers Report Deferring Care Due to Existing Medical Bills in 2021
The number of financial assistance transactions processed by TransUnion Healthcare increased 55% between September 2020 and September 2021. A new analysis from TransUnion Healthcare released at the HFMA Annual Conference indicates hospitals are more proactively working with patients to understand their financial needs and provide them appropriate options.
The data reflects millions of financial assistance transactions, from more than 1,000 hospitals and physician practices, conducted through TransUnion Healthcare in order to validate identity, determine charity options and assess a patients’ ability and propensity to pay. TransUnion Healthcare began collecting this data in September 2018 and has tracked an upward year-over-year trend, amounting to a 270% increase since that time.
Financial Assistance Transactions Continue to Increase*
*Data is a combination of increased overall transaction volume and an increase in the number of organizations using these transactions
“This data reflect the increased financial pressure on healthcare systems as well as patients who are struggling with the burden of high healthcare costs,” said Jonathan Wiik, principal of healthcare strategy at TransUnion Healthcare. “We are recommending that hospitals engage patients confidently and increase transparency and communication in regard to billing, beginning with providing patients a clear understanding of the cost of care at intake, and then streamlining financial clearance and charity screening throughout the revenue cycle.”
While the increased number of financial assistance transactions was likely exacerbated by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, Wiik said other factors, like hospital billing practices also played a role.
Prior research by TransUnion found 70% of patients said knowing costs before a procedure helps them anticipate charges and budget for payments, and 65% said they would make at least a partial payment if an advance estimate were provided.
Patient safety the primary concern
Along with its most recent data analysis, TransUnion Healthcare also conducted a consumer survey of patients’ healthcare billing experiences. The survey found 35% of those with outstanding medical bills said those bills deterred them from seeking healthcare in the past 12 months.
“It’s scary and sad to know people are forgoing their physical and mental health for fear that they’ll ruin their financial health with medical treatment,” said Wiik. “By communicating with patients early on, helping them understand their cost of care and their payment options—including financial assistance—healthcare systems can improve outcomes for patients as well as the hospital’s bottom line.”