Medical Billing Problems Plague Consumers

One-third of consumers have had a medical bill go to collections
A pregnant woman on the phone

Not only do health care costs pose a challenge to many consumers, but billing issues often create a financial headache, too, text a new survey shows.

Cedar, a company that provides a platform for paying health care expenses, interviewed 1,607 consumers of health care services to gauge how painful the medical bill payment process has been for some of them. They learned that billing challenges often have far-reaching implications.

About a third of respondents believe health care providers can stand to improve the billing and payment process. For example, one of the biggest challenges consumers face is trying to learn what they will be expected to pay ahead of time. Approximately 60% of respondents said they’ve tried to find out what their out-of-pocket costs would be before receiving care. However, 51% of respondents said they either couldn’t get that information easily or the information they received was not accurate.

Another area that causes frustration among many health care consumers is the lack of digital billing options, such as online bill pay and email bill delivery. In fact, approximately 20% of respondents have provided a negative review of a health care provider because they had a bad digital experience.

Young consumers are particularly looking for more electronic options when it comes to medical billing. In fact, 61% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would consider switching providers because of a bad digital experience. In comparison, 21% of respondents over 65 said they would consider switching providers because of few digital options. Some respondents have already changed providers for that reason, with 29% of respondents between 18 and 24 having done so compared to 6% of those over 65.

Billing problems aren’t just a matter of inconvenience. For some consumers, billing challenges can have long-lasting consequences. One-third (34%) of respondents said they have had a health care bill go to collections. For younger consumers, the percentage is higher with 44% of respondents between 18-44 having had a bill go to collections. Among consumers 45 and older, 26% reported having a medical bill go to collections.

Consumers have their own ideas about how health care providers can ease the billing process. An overwhelming 83% said flexible payment plans for large balances would be helpful. More than half ⁠— 56% ⁠— said the ability to get out-of-pocket cost estimates would help them to better plan for their medical expenses. Other recommended improvements include:

  • Understandable bill explanations (50%)
  • Consolidated bills or statements (41%)
  • Improved customer support (38%)
  • Digital payment options (33%)

While some may assume younger people aren’t as likely as older generations to be impacted by medical bills, research shows that millennials struggle with medical debt the most. Even if you’re healthy, an accident or a broken bone can leave you with medical bills to pay. If you do have medical debt that you cannot afford to pay right now, there are a number of options to consider that may help, such as medical debt consolidation loans. However, make sure you do your research so you understand all of the risks.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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