Providers fall short on price transparency

Only one-quarter of healthcare consumers get pre-treatment cost estimates from their providers, according to a new survey from TransUnion.

Even as hospitals and health plans increasingly make cost information available, two in three Americans reported being consistently surprised by medical costs, according to the survey. The survey also found:

  • Two-thirds of patients (63 percent) wanted to know the full cost of care, including their insurer's portion, compared to 37 percent who were only interested in costs they were responsible for.

  • A majority of respondents were "sometimes or always" confused by their bills, and 62 percent said the same about out-of-pocket costs.

  • More than 80 percent said pre-treatment cost and coverage estimates would be either "helpful" or "extremely helpful" for cost management.

  • Eighty-four percent of Americans said front-end cost estimates' impact on their decision to continue with a provider would be either somewhat positive (37 percent) or very positive (47 percent).

  • Upfront estimates are nearly as important to patients in their decision-making as outstanding bedside manner (86 percent), prompt test results (89 percent) and accurate diagnoses (90 percent).

  • Only 12 percent said obtaining pre-treatment cost information was "very easy," with almost half calling it either "somewhat difficult" or "very difficult."

"Today's cost-aware consumer has a greater expectation that providers will offer upfront cost estimates and timely and accurate post-treatment bills. With consumers placing more emphasis on billing and payment when evaluating quality of care, it's imperative that providers have the technology and processes to meet this consumer demand," said TransUnion Senior Vice President Dave Wojczynski.

The survey results suggest that as patients take a bigger role in evaluating and selecting their own healthcare, they are more attuned to healthcare costs, according to Wojczynski, making price transparency and accurate upfront cost estimates and billing more important than ever.

Only one state, Massachusetts, requires providers to give patients cost estimates on request, and the process does not always work out in practice, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the announcement