Research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, as of 2020, annual work-funded healthcare fees for families increased to over $21,300. When broken down, this yearly amount equates to a monthly cost of approximately $1,800, which equals nearly half of a worker’s total monthly earnings in many states. Having healthcare could, quite literally, lead to a seemingly unbreakable cycle of financial and mental strain. The potential to face medical debt is debilitating for patients and can cause them to stray from visiting physicians even when they require medical care.
What Does it Mean to say that Healthcare is a Growing Financial Burden?
Whether a medically-related financial burden exists is determined by calculating the ratio of money that a patient pays out-of-pocket for healthcare to their family's income. Therefore, saying that the healthcare industry is a growing financial burden for patients asserts that they are now spending a higher percentage of their income on healthcare costs. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that some patients spent upwards of 20% of their annual income on health-related expenses. The growing cost of obtaining medically-necessary care can lead patients to lack access to essential care.
Currently, patients must spend significantly more money on healthcare than in recent years because of the increased financial responsibility loaded onto them. Patients are now expected to pay a higher percentage of their healthcare costs. Additionally, health insurance fees have risen much more rapidly than wages over the past 10 years.
This is reflected by Kaiser Family Foundation’s finding that deductible costs have increased by 111% compared to an average wage increase of only 27%. Therefore, the expense of having healthcare coverage and seeking medical treatment has multiplied, making healthcare less accessible. Healthcare prices will continue to increase, and patients will undoubtedly require access to healthcare, so patients are bound to either continue paying outrageous fees for the necessity of health or decide not to have access to the care they need.
Who is Affected by the Growing Financial Burden?
Technically, every patient in America faces the consequences of growing healthcare prices. Men and women of all ages -with or without spouses and children- are being plagued by the increasing costs of healthcare. Yet, millions of Americans suffer more significant financial repercussions.
Notably, low-income patients with private insurance coverage and high-cost deductibles are the most negatively affected by this harsh reality. Unrealistic medical fees can cause these patients to delay or skip out on preventative and curative care, harming their future health. Having to choose between having a home and food to eat or having adequate access to healthcare is not a choice that many individuals can afford to make.
Even though the individuals mentioned above have health insurance, they often cannot afford to pay the deductibles and copayments associated with seeking high-cost medical care as a result of their socioeconomic statuses. Yearly deductibles, which can add up to thousands of dollars, are difficult for many patients to meet and protect insurance companies from helping to cover medical fees.
As a result, even patients with medical insurance coverage may not visit the doctors as much as they would if prices were more affordable or if their insurance paid for a portion of their medical bills.
How Will This Growing Burden Affect Patients?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, experiencing a financial burden related to health is linked to depression and a poor sense of perceived health among patients. This means that outrageously-priced medical care is not only linked to the long-term debt of patients but also has adverse mental and potentially physical health consequences.
Also, low-income patients with insurance coverage through private companies cannot manage their preexisting chronic conditions, are less likely to have their illnesses diagnosed, and are more likely to be faced with higher fees related to healthcare in the future because of their inability to access affordable payment plan.
The above information means that patients will soon be forced to personally investigate healthcare options with the hope of finding the lowest-cost coverage possible. Their initiative is excellent, but the risks associated with receiving health insurance from a company that is not well-renowned include settling for inadequate coverage or struggling with hidden medical fees.
How Can Healthcare Providers Help Patients?
It is vital for healthcare practices and providers to be more transparent about the costs they are charging patients in order to maintain trusting patient-provider relationships. For instance, providers can offer patients a copy of their payment breakdowns to better explain what patients are being charged for and how much they will be expected to pay for each service. Using honest and clear communication would allow patients to feel respected and give them a greater sense of confidence spending their hard-earned money receiving care.
Having online access to their medical records, requests, and debts through a patient portal enables patients to stay up-to-date with everything relating to their health. Providing online reminders of upcoming dues encourages patients to make timely payments. Patients can easily access what they need and contact their provider with any financial or personal concerns through their patient portals. Each aspect mentioned above contributes to patients’ positive experiences with a medical practice.
Finally, medical offices and doctors can aid patients by giving them the choice to finance their bills through payment plans. Providing patients the ability to finance their medical bills would allow them to maintain financial stability despite the exorbitance of healthcare. By making smaller monthly payments rather than dishing out thousands of dollars at once, patients can better avoid debilitating debt.
Medical practices can partner with Denefits to offer payment plans to patients who might struggle to pay out-of-pocket for their medical bills. Denefits offers obtainable financing for all patients regardless of their credit scores and histories. Denefits does not investigate the credit information of any individuals that would like to create a payment plan. Providing Protected Customer Payment Plans with flexible terms is just one way which Denefits works to help patients stay afloat during times of financial hardship.