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Medical bills cause confusion for almost 40% of patients

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Survey examines causes, solutions for frustrations over health care costs.

Medical bills are confusing to patients, but there are ways to clarify costs of health care.

A new survey by automation and artificial intelligence developer AKASA found 38% of patients said their medical bills were somewhat confusing or extremely confusing. Another 37% of patients said they were neutral, while 14% said they leaned toward medical bills not being confusing, and 11% said medical bills were not confusing at all.

“These results show that medical billing is still a black box to patients,” Amy Raymond, AKASA vice president of revenue cycle operations, said in a news release. “The onus is on health care organizations – both providers and insurers – to make medical billing less painful for patients, who may fear going into debt and avoid seeking out care.”

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The online survey sought responses from 2,026 patients in March 2022, and they ranked their greatest frustrations “about the financial experience after seeking medical care:”

  • 29% said being able to understand what they’re being billed for.
  • 27% said uncertainty if they can pay the bill.
  • 24% said not getting bills until weeks after they received the service.
  • 20% said uncertainty if the final bill will be consistent with the estimate of responsibility.

“The rise of high-deductible health plans, the uncertainty of what’s being billed, the complexities of in- and out-of-network charges, and how much patients are on the hook for makes understanding and managing medical bills challenging for many families,” Raymond said. “Additionally, as errors in medical bills persist, patients should be diligent in reviewing their bills to ensure they’re getting an accurate bill. I strongly encourage individuals to ask questions of their providers or insurance company before paying a bill.”

Based on the survey, patients agreed with some methods that doctors or insurers could use to clarify the expenses:

  • 27% said a call before the procedure from the physician’s office or hospital staff to walk through what’s expected in terms of payment and discuss payment plans offered
  • 12% said an online calculator to help determine cost ranges for care or procedures
  • 11% said an email from the insurance company to walk through the bill after care or services are rendered
  • 9% said a call from the insurance company to walk through the bill after care or services are rendered
  • 9% said access to live online customer service through their insurer’s websites
  • 8% said a call from the physician’s office or hospital staff to walk through the bill after care or services are rendered

However, 24% said none of those methods would help. Raymond suggested automation as a “critical tool” for save time for revenue cycle specialists who can become patient advocates and offer financial counseling.


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