Fewer Than 1 in 3 Consumers Pay Medical Bills Immediately


A recent survey shows most consumers— 72% — don’t or can’t pay their medical bills in full right away, with affordability being a top barrier.

Healthcare revenue cycle leaders may need to readjust their patient collection strategy to help consumers understand and pay their medical bills, a new survey suggests.

The survey of over 1,000 consumers conducted by AccessOne found that fewer than one in three respondents pay their medical bills in full right away, leaving a remaining 72 percent of consumers waiting to pay healthcare-related expenses. The latter respondents said they either can’t or don’t pay their medical bills right away and need different options and support.

Some consumers who don’t pay medical bills immediately simply haven’t paid as of yet (13 percent), while 7 percent wait until just before the bill’s due date to pay in full and 2 percent pay after the due date.

Affordability is a major challenge for consumers. About 68 percent of consumers responding to the survey said they cannot afford to pay their bills on time. Overall, nearly half of respondents (44 percent) said they’ve seen an uptick in healthcare costs recently.

Middle-aged consumers responding to the survey were the most impacted by rising healthcare costs, as well as higher-earning individuals and households with children.

With affordability being a major barrier to paying medical bills, consumers, especially younger adults, are skipping or delaying care to manage or reduce their medical expenses. About one out of three 18- to 34-year-olds said they postponed needed care or procedures and 40 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds have opted not to fill a prescription or delayed the prescription.

Some consumers are even dipping into personal savings (10 percent of respondents) to pay for healthcare-related expenses, while nearly a third have used a personal credit card to pay their bills.

The survey highlighted several drawbacks of using credit cards to pay for medical bills, including potential late fees and interest, especially since leveraging personal cards negates the potential advantages of incurring strict medical debt. The top three credit bureaus recently agreed to drop medical debt from consumer credit reports, but late or missed payments to a personal credit card still impact one’s credit rating, the survey explained.

Revenue cycle leaders must rethink the patient financial experience to encourage consumers to pay their medical bills on time. The survey showed that 17 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the options providers are offering.

Two out of three respondents also said they would be more likely to seek care if they were given a payment plan option prior to care delivery.

The survey suggested that revenue cycle teams exhaust all discounted or charity care options with patients based on income before discussing payment. Then, providers can talk about payment plans and other options for payment that fit with the patient’s situation.

Other recommendations from the survey report include fostering financial transparency through clear and easy-to-understand bills, proactively promoting mobile payment technologies, and giving patients flexibility to manage and change medical payment plans.

“It’s time for revenue cycle leaders to consider their patients’ preferences—and find new ways to work with them to elevate their overall satisfaction,” the survey stated.

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