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Many Patients Uneducated About Healthcare Benefits

A new survey reveals patients are concerned about costs, but largely unaware of health plan benefits.
Published Online: Nov 08,2016
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
A recent survey found that 55% of consumers are spending more than $1000 out-of-pocket on healthcare services, and are not satisfied with their health plan benefits.

Healthcare costs are rising, and more financial burden is being placed onto individuals than ever before. Some individuals may also be questioning if they should sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Since the exit of multiple small and large insurers, consumers have faced higher premiums and less choices. The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services even implemented new strategies to increase enrollment for 2017.

Despite these extra efforts, the Copatient 2016 Healthcare Financial Management Survey found that 25% of consumers did not even know when open enrollment for 2017 began. Included in the survey were 515 consumers who reported that they were surprised by healthcare costs within the past year.

The investigators also found that more consumers are reporting spending more than $1000 out-of-pocket in the last year, and 15% of those respondents spent more than $5000 out-of-pocket. Additionally, 39% of consumers reported that they only somewhat understood their benefits, while 20% were unaware of what health plan they had.

“The financial model for healthcare is in the midst of a significant shift, which will require consumers to continue to pay for more of their healthcare out-of-pocket,” said Thomas Torre, CEO of Copatient. “Our survey findings underscore just how important it is that consumers engage in healthcare decision-making and take control of their financial choices and obligations, moving forward. It is also incumbent upon employers to help their workforce navigate medical expenses and understand their health benefits and options.”

Investigators also found that medical billing was caused great confusion for a majority of consumers. Approximately 66% of consumers reported that they received a bill they were unable to understand, according to the survey.

However, less than 1 in 3 consumers attempted to contact their provider with a question regarding the bill, while a majority reported they would take the matter up with the health insurer.

Some companies have created online tools where individuals can submit their medical bills for review to prevent any errors that may be present. The goal of these transparency tools is to prevent patients from overpaying hospitals and healthcare providers for medical bill errors.

Additional education and more online tools will be essential to the financial well-being of consumers as high deductible plans become more prevalent, according to the survey.