Unknown health care prices keep 35% of Americans from seeking care

80% of uninsured don’t know about financial assistance available from providers

Limited price transparency is influencing patient decisions on whether to seek care, according to a report from AKASA and YouGov.

More than 2,000 Americans were asked: “If you were unaware of the price ahead of the care or service, would you be deterred from seeking out care or services for any of the following individuals?”

A lack of health care pricing information would deter 35% or respondents from seeking care for themselves and 25% weren’t sure. When it came to seeking care for dependents, 18.3% would be deterred without pricing information, and 30.3% did not know.

When caring for parents or guardians, 20% said they would be deterred from seeking care if they were unaware of pricing, while 30% said they didn’t know.

The report states that this trend is troubling because it shows that limited knowledge around pricing may discourage people from seeking care, and delayed care can lead to more severe conditions.

Respondents were also asked: “Do you know if payment plans or financial assistance are offered by your physician or hospital?” The survey found that 64% of Americans don’t know, illustrating how a key measure to prevent financial hardship is underutilized. For the uninsured, that number rose to 80%.

“Hospitals and health systems in the U.S. have been hyper-focused on improving the patient experience in recent years — and for good reason,” said Amy Raymond, vice president of revenue cycle operation of AKASA, in a statement. “A positive experience is directly tied to an organization’s reputation and ratings. It increases utilization, improves loyalty and retention, and, as a result, boosts their bottom line. Yet improving the patient financial experience in health care is one area that continues to lag behind other industries. If the reactive nature of medical billing continues to be the status quo, patients can miss out on opportunities to prevent medical debt which creates unnecessary hardship.

“As hospitals and health care systems continue to grapple with slim profit margins, workforce shortages, rising denials, and a high cost-to-collect, they must prioritize the patient financial experience and rethink medical billing and revenue cycle as a front-end, patient advocacy function rather than a reactive, back-end process. Automation can help prevent surprise medical bills and takes a lot of the tedious work off the plates of revenue cycle specialists, freeing them up to serve as patient advocates.”