More patients rely on price transparency for care decisions

More patients are turning to hospitals and insurers to provide information on costs of procedures and treatments when making care decisions and choosing providers, according to a new TransUnion Healthcare survey.

Fifty-five percent of 1,039 insured patients who completed the online survey in early November reported they now pay more attention to the details of their medical bills, and not only costs associated with out-of-pocket expenses, such as premiums, co-payments and co-insurance. They also are linking the billing experience to overall quality of care.

The survey found certain aspects of the billing process, such as organizations making it easy to find the cost of services and providing clear and accurate bills, are just as important to consumers in choosing providers as doctor consultations and clinical reputations.

"Our survey indicates consumers are becoming increasingly cost aware with their healthcare choices," Milton Silva-Craig, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in the survey announcement.

Patients are becoming more aware of prices due to the Affordable Care Act and rising healthcare costs, according to Silva-Craig. Respondents said healthcare reform has led to more concern about cost than to issues such as access to specialists, appointment availability and ability to get coverage.

Sixty-three percent of the respondents said that healthcare reform has made them "more concerned" about the cost of coverage, as well as out-of-pocket cost (62 percent) and the total cost of care (60 percent). But only half said the same about access to specialists (50 percent) and getting appointments (47 percent).

Patients who experienced a clear, transparent billing process--especially those who knew about the expected costs prior to the procedure or treatment--were far more likely to give the highest ratings for their quality of care. Seventy-three percent who gave high marks for their care quality also gave high scores to their billing experience. But 69 percent of those who rated their quality of care as poor also gave low marks to their billing experiences.

The survey results indicate it's crucial that hospitals and health systems become more transparent with the costs of care they provide, according to Silva-Craig.

"As the ACA has prompted increased consumer focus on the billing and cost aspect of care, it is imperative for payers and providers to start looking at their patients as customers of their healthcare service offerings and look for ways to update their services to improve patient satisfaction with the quality of care received," he said.

Nearly two-thirds of states received a failing grade for their healthcare price transparency laws and another seven seven received a D, in a report released earlier this year by the Catalyst for Payment Reform, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Only two states--Massachusetts and New Hampshire--received As for their price transparency laws.

To learn more:
- read the survey announcement