Patients more likely to ditch preferred hospital after a surprise bill, study finds

Patients who receive an unexpected bill from an out-of-network provider or from an out-of-network provider the patient didn't choose are more likely to switch from their preferred hospital, suggests a study published in Health Affairs.

The study — led by Benjamin Chartock, a PhD student in the healthcare management department at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — examined patients' hospital choices after receiving a surprise out-of-network bill in an elective situation.

The study found that when mothers received a surprise out-of-network bill with their first birth,19.4 percent of them switched to another hospital for their second birth. Of new mothers who did not receive a surprise out-of-network bill with their first birth,16.4 percent switched to another hospital for their second birth.

The study also found obstetric patients who switched hospitals after a surprise out-of-network bill had 56 percent lower relative risk of a second surprise bill compared to mothers who did not switch after receiving their first surprise bill.

"These results highlight the harmful effects of surprise out-of-network bills, as patients are more likely to switch from their preferred hospital after receiving a surprise bill," the study authors concluded. "Patients would benefit significantly from laws protecting them from the damaging financial consequences of surprise out-of-network bills, including those incurred in elective situations."

 

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