TransUnion: Consumers bear more out-of-pocket healthcare costs

A new study by TransUnion Healthcare has concluded that patient out-of-pocket costs have gone up dramatically in recent years, putting more pressure on providers to determine new pathways to collect payments.

The average deductible for patients increased 13 percent between 2014 and 2015, from $1,131 to $1,278, according to the study. Average out-of-pocket costs also rose 13 percent, from $3,065 to $3,470.

The procedure with the biggest out-of-pocket cost is dermatology services, at $2,451, closely followed by orthopedic surgery at $2,405.

As of the first quarter of this year, about 51 percent of patients owe more than $1,000 to healthcare providers. About 77 percent patients owe more than $500, according to TransUnion.

“It’s clear that patients are becoming the new payer--a major source for payments to hospitals at both the time of service and after procedures,” said Jonathan Wiik, principal for TransUnion Healthcare’s revenue cycle management.

In an interview with FierceHealthFinance at the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s Annual National Institute in Las Vegas this week, Wiik said that the amount of money patients owe has reached a breaking point, and that hospitals need to take a closer look at their collections processes. “You could at one time lick a stamp and put the bill in the mail if your patients had a $100 or even $400 co-pay, but that’s not the case anymore,” he said.

Along with the higher bills, consumers have less revolving credit to pay them. In the first quarter of 2014, they had $2,310 in revolving credit to pay every $100 in healthcare costs. By the first quarter of this year, that shrank to $1,720.

Meanwhile, prior studies by TransUnion have concluded that patients want clearer pricing information but often struggle to obtain it, and that more and more consumers rely on cost and price transparency to be able to navigate the healthcare system.

- read the TransUnion study