Why patients delay medical payments: 12 findings

More than half of Americans delay medical payments due to factors such as high deductibles and uncertainty regarding insurance coverage, yet providers don't often take advantage of opportunities to solve the revenue challenges this creates, according to a West Corp. study.

The study, titled "Optimizing Revenue: Solving Healthcare's Revenue Cycle Challenges," includes findings from two West surveys. One, conducted in partnership with Kelton Global, involved a nationally representative sample of 1,010 Americans ages 18 and older. Another involved 236 healthcare providers.

Here are 12 findings from the study.

1. The study found 79 percent of patients cited affordability as the largest healthcare problem, topping insurance coverage, quality of care and provider availability.

2. Nearly all healthcare consumers (93 percent) said healthcare costs too much.

3. A vast majority of patients (67 percent) reported their financial situation makes it challenging to submit timely medical payments.

4. More than half of Americans (56 percent) delay medical payments at least some of the time.

5. The study found delaying medical payments is especially prevalent among millennials. Seventy percent of millennials have missed medical payment deadlines, and millennials are more likely than nonmillennials (70 percent versus 50 percent) to delay medical payments.

6. High deductibles was the most common reason cited by patients for delaying medical payments. Overall, the study found 42 percent of patients delay medical payments for that reason.

7. But patients cited other reasons for delaying medical payments as well. According to the study, 30 percent of patients cited "confusion about how much insurance will cover what patients owe"; 30 percent cited "receiving bills for services patients don't think they should have to pay for"; 25 percent of patients cited "waiting to receive the final bill so they are sure of the amount owed"; and 11 percent of patients cited "uncertainty about what payment method to use."

8. Additionally, more than 36 percent of patients said they have difficulty remembering to make timely medical payments. But West notes providers know this to be true, as more than half of providers (53 percent) recognize patients delay medical payments because they forget to pay the amount they owe.

9. The study also found nearly all providers (95 percent) recognize patients may delay paying medical expenses due to their financial situation.

10. Still, West said only 23 percent of providers habitually talk about each patient's ability to afford healthcare prior to delivering services.

11. A similar number of providers (only 21 percent) send automated reminders to let patients know a payment is due.

12. Lastly, only 15 percent of providers currently send messages — either by phone, text or email—to explain bills and let patients know how much of the cost their insurance will cover, according to the study.

Read the full study here.



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