Patients Feel Increased Financial Burden From Deductibles, Procedure Costs

Hospital patients felt an increased financial burden in 2014 due to a combination of rising procedure costs and higher deductibles, according to TransUnion Healthcare's Q4 2014 report.

Hospital patients felt an increased financial burden in 2014 due to a combination of rising procedure costs and higher deductibles, according to TransUnion Healthcare’s Q4 2014 report.

On average, patient payment costs increased approximately 11% in the past year from $2245 in Q4 2013 to $2491 in Q4 2014. TransUnion attributed the increase mostly to the cost of joint replacement procedures, which increased nearly 20%.

At the end of 2013, the cost for major joint replacement was $2617, but that had risen to $3135 by the end of 2014. In comparison, the cost for Cesarean section birth dropped 5% from $2042 to $1939.

In addition to the rising cost of some procedures, patient deductibles are also on the rise, up 7% year over year from an average of $1062 in 2013 to $1133 in 2014.

“Deductibles have nearly doubled over the past five years through the adoption of high deductible plans offered by employers and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Gerry McCarthy, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in a statement. “We will be tracking this trend closely as we suspect that average deductibles could rise much more in the coming years.”

Mr McCarthy added that the continued trend of increasing deductibles will place more importance on transparency of costs. TranUnion’s survey of more than 7400 patients found that 54% of patients are still confused about the healthcare billing process.

In addition, 64% of patients said they are surprised by out-of-pocket costs and while 80% think cost estimates are helpful, only 25% are offered estimates, according to TransUnion.

“We are finding that the healthcare providers that have been the most flexible in adjusting their billing practices also appear to have performed best during these transitional years,” Mr McCarthy said. “A key change in the industry is the increased prominence of upfront cost estimates and more timely and transparent healthcare bills.”