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Half of Patients With High-Deductible Health Plans Have Received a Surprise Medical Bill

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High-deductible health plans can create patient problems with billing estimates and medical debt

A survey from AKASA and YouGov found that many patients with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) had problems with surprise medical bills, inaccurate estimates, and financial hardship.

Of the 2,000 Americans ask if they had received a surprise medical bill, 50% of those with employer-sponsored HDHPs said they had. When it came to obtaining accurate estimates compared to the final medical bill, 53% of individuals with HDHPs said they received bills that did not match the estimates provided.

“Surprise medical bills are never pleasant, leaving patients with financial burdens they didn’t expect,” said Amy Raymond, VP of revenue cycle operations at AKASA, in a statement. “Often, these bills go unpaid, too, which impacts the patient's credit, and costs the health care system. With health care systems often struggling to find enough funding as is, surprise medical bills are a lose-lose for everyone involved.”

In terms of medical debt, respondents were asked: “Have you ever been harassed by a debt collection agency on a medical bill?”34% of individuals with HDHPs said they have been harassed by a medical debt collector before, while 44% of individuals with HDHPs said they experienced financial hardship from medical bills.

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“Enrollment in high deductible health plans grew 43% from 2014 to 2019, and with it has come a similar rise in patient responsibility for payments,” said Raymond. “With high health insurance premiums, deductibles, and cost of care, patients are shouldering more of the financial burden of healthcare. This has led to increasing rates of bad debt for hospitals and health systems. Providers must modernize their systems with options that drive more consistent patient behaviors in paying for services.

“Through automation technology, the upfront financial clearance work can be done instantly and accurately every time, facilitating a proactive and patient-friendly conversation to set expectations upfront. Organizations can calculate an estimate of the costs to understand better what a patient’s balance will be — and increase the likelihood that they will pay or get access to financial counseling if necessary.”


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