27% of Families Delay Medical Care Due to Costs

November 10, 2018

A survey of nearly 700 people, each with at least $35,000 in household income, found that more than half of respondents are concerned about their ability to pay a medical bill of less than $1000, with 35% being concerned about paying a medical bill under $500.

More than 1 in 4 (27%) households with children in the United States are likely to delay care because they can’t afford to pay for it, according to a new survey commissioned by AccessOne.

Analyzing how healthcare costs impact patient behavior, the survey of nearly 700 people, each with at least $35,000 in household income, also found that these families are twice as likely to have their accounts sent to collections. More than one-fifth of survey respondents with families reported that their accounts had been sent to collections, compared with the 9% of individuals who faced similar difficulty.

More than half of respondents said they were concerned about their ability to pay a medical bill of less than $1000, with 35% being concerned about paying a medical bill under $500.

The authors of the report stressed the importance of these findings, as skipping or delaying care can significantly impact health outcomes and exacerbate the severity of chronic conditions, which leads to increased treatment costs when patients do seek medical attention.

“The high cost of healthcare has become a mass-market problem for the American consumer. The fact that so many families are delaying care due to fear of affordability will have lasting negative impacts on population health, total cost of care for employers and health plans, and providers financial ratios,” said Mark Spinner, CEO of AccessOne, in a statement. “Healthcare providers can support their communities and their financial wellbeing by proactively offering flexible financing options, while also reducing organizational bad debt.”

Wanting both transparency and communication around healthcare costs and financing was consistent across the board, with all generations and income levels indicating the desire. More than half (55%) reported that they want the discussion to happen before care or a service is delivered, but 1 in 5 said they are not comfortable speaking with their provider about their financial situation.

However, despite costs of care—including increases in out-of-pocket costs—weighing heavy on families, patients often have little knowledge about medical costs or how pay for them. Only 21% of respondents indicated that their healthcare providers have spoken to them about available patient financing options in the past 2 years.

Based on the report’s findings, the authors recommended 3 strategies for providers to offset the impact of out-of-pocket costs:

  • Have discussions with patients about their estimated out-of-pocket expenses before or at the point of care
  • Offer a variety of options for payment
  • Publicize the availability of no- or low-interest financing options