61% of patients confused by medical bills, survey finds

Mad*Pow has released a research report to help healthcare professionals design a more simple, consumer-friendly medical bill.

The report specifically targets those participating in HHS' A Bill You Can Understand challenge, part of a national design and innovation effort to help Americans better understand their financial obligation for healthcare services.

The report includes a survey conducted with 355 patients to understand their perspective on medical billing and medical cost estimation and the issues they experience.

Here are 10 findings from the survey.

1. Overall, patients find the bills confusing, and most of the time they either try to figure out bills on their own or just ignore them.

2. Most of the patients identified providers or their billing department as the root cause of their frustration and errors.

3. Experience with medical bills caused many patients to be hesitant to seek additional medical care. Some forgo seeking care at all.

4. Patients identified a need for streamlined communication regarding cost and benefits because receiving multiple bills for the same service was confusing.

5. Among those who received medical bills, 60.5 percent of respondents rated their medical bills as confusing or very confusing.

6. The medical bills were most often received in the paper format by mail (43.8 percent) or in the paper format at the point of service (30 percent).

7. Less frequently patients received the bills through email (17.4 percent) or accessed them through patient portal (6.6 percent).

8. More than half of respondents — 50. 6 percent — cited the relationship between bills from the provider and the statements from the insurance company as a frustration. More than 49 percent said they were "not sure if the total owed was correct," and 48.8 percent said "the amount owed was a surprise."

9. Actions patients took to remedy frustration with medical bills include:

  • Figure it out on their own (44.5 percent)
  • Not pay at first to see if it would clear up with time (39.4 percent)
  • Call the insurance company for advice (34.3 percent)
  • Call the health provider for advice (29.3 percent)
  • Call the billing department (29.5 percent)

10. For 46.1 percent of respondents, frustrations continued even after they took actions to clear up the confusion.


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