When you go to the hospital for an emergency and have to receive specialized treatment, do you know at that time how much that treatment is actually going to cost you? Like most people, you’re thinking that as long as you have insurance, your medical needs are being met – until you receive a bill.
One of the challenges within our healthcare system is you don’t know how much your treatment is going to cost you. Yes, it is great that you have insurance, but the fact is, insurance doesn’t cover everything (see 40 things to know about healthcare costs). If we knew the bottom line on the costs of our healthcare and how much we had to pay out of pocket, we might make different decisions or we might question our healthcare providers more about effective care within our budget.
In turn, healthcare providers have often been elusive about sharing costs with their patients when they are receiving treatment. Oblivious to the actual cost of your healthcare, you happily share your insurance information and pay your co-pay, not expecting any other financial responsibility beyond that. But, we may be turning a curve with this trend in healthcare. A recent survey revealed that 129-140 medical schools offered a mandatory course on healthcare costs in 2013-14. This change in how we are educating our future doctors will have a tremendous impact on our healthcare system.
From a personal perspective, I received a bill from my healthcare services provider for routine radiology services. Actually, it was not a bill, it was a collections notice for services that I’d received months ago. But, here’s the problem: I thought I fulfilled my financial obligations as I always comply and pay what is required anytime I receive any medical services. However, at this particular healthcare facility, they never asked for my co-pay. And, I do not recall receiving an invoice from this healthcare provider asking for payment after my visit was complete. Instead, they waited months and incurred the expense of a collections agency for a $40 bill! Forty dollars that I would have happily paid if asked at the time of service.
With the dynamics of healthcare changing every year and patients assuming more financial responsibility for their healthcare, it is imperative that patients not only understand what they are being billed for, but that the hospital community seek engaging and informative ways to effectively communicate with their patients. Otherwise, you end up with healthcare consumers who are confused, frustrated and unwilling or unable to pay their bills. So, what’s the answer?
According to L.A. Times, “hospitals realize that patients are more likely to pay bills they understand, and many [hospitals] are now working to simplify the paperwork.” That is a huge first step for hospitals to bridge the communication gap between them and their customers when it comes to patient financial responsibility. Another significant improvement step: hospitals training their care teams to be aware, educated, and sensitive to the financial concerns of their patients.
As a consumer of healthcare services, I will gladly pay a bill if I understand it and owe it. But, in my case with my healthcare provider, I’m frustrated and disappointed that I was not given the chance. Instead of partnering with me to fix the problem, they sent my account directly to collections. I’m optimistic that the healthcare industry is making strides to improve this situation for the future.
Ellison, Ayla. “40 things to know about healthcare costs.” Becker’s Hospital CFO. January 13, 2016.
Zamosky, Lisa. “How did hospital bills get so complicated?” Los Angeles Times. March 22, 2015.
“Medical schools now teaching how to have conversations about healthcare costs.” Healthcare Finance. September 11, 2015.
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Crystal has over a decade of experience in the healthcare industry with a focus and passion for talent and workforce development. She is a versatile project manager, dynamic trainer, and results-oriented engagement manager. Crystal is a certified project management professional, a Fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, a certified Strategic Workforce Planner and a member of the Association for Talent Development.
How to contact Crystal: ☏ 240-203-9177 ✉ email@example.com.