Hospitals and other healthcare providers are struggling to collect out-of-pocket costs from patients. This has always been the case to some degree but with the growth of high-deductible plans and other forms of cost-sharing, patient payments have become a much more significant share of the pie.
This state of affairs can lead to some ugly publicity. Hospitals are more likely to collect if they do so upfront, but it can also strike patients as rude and even unethical.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review covered this topic, leading with an example of a breast cancer patient who was told her surgery would be canceled if she didn’t bring along her $900 co-pay.
I’m quoted in the story:
David E. Williams, a health care consultant in Boston, said patients are leery of hospital bills because they don’t understand the complexities of health insurance. He encouraged people to become more familiar with the plans.
“If hospitals wait to bill later, the patient, in addition to being generally less likely to pay, may not believe that they actually owe it because they’re not sure how the insurance works,” said Williams, co-founder of the Health Business Group.
With high-deductible plans, a patient who once was responsible for $50 might be on the hook for thousands of dollars, Williams said. Owing money for a health-related procedure is different from owing money for a car, he said.
“If you don’t make your (car) payment, somebody can repossess it. They are not going to undo your surgery or take your knee replacement,” he said.