Consumers feel pressure from rising healthcare prices

Hospital patients continued to feel increased financial pressure in 2014 due to rising healthcare costs and less access to revolving credit to pay medical bills, according to a new report from TransUnion Healthcare. 

Between the fourth quarters (Q4) of 2013 and 2014, average costs for patients increased 11 percent, which TransUnion attributes to rising costs for common joint-replacement procedures. The cost of these surgeries increased 20 percent over the past year. Meanwhile, patient deductibles increased 7 percent over the same period, and consumer ability to cover healthcare costs fell more than 11 percent, according to the report.

"Our latest report demonstrates that consumers continue to feel the pressure of rising healthcare costs," Gerry McCarthy, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in a statement about the report. "Despite a slowly improving economy, many consumers are finding they have less money to make these payments. This issue is not just about patients, though, as thousands of healthcare administrators across the country face the challenge of providing quality care while also seeking fair compensation."

Moreover, the report found, consumers' proprietary ratio of revolving credit to select healthcare costs fell from 15.2 to 1 in 2013 to 13.5 to 1 in 2014. In other words, for every $100 in healthcare costs they faced, consumers had $1,350 in revolving credit to potentially make those payments.

A Marketwatch report last November found consumer vigilance and advocacy is one potential solution to rising healthcare costs. "You can't be a citizen any longer and not realize there are no more magical solutions to these problems," Reed Tuckson, M.D., a consultant who was formerly an executive with UnitedHealth Group and the American Medical Association told Marketwatch at the time. As healthcare transitions to a consumer-driven market, it could cut hospitals' inpatient business by as much as 40 percent in the long term, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- download the report (registration required)