More than half of individuals who are receiving benefits from Medicare and have had a serious illness have have a “serious problem” paying for their healthcare bills, according to the results of a national survey that was published yesterday by Health Affairs.
For most of those individuals, paying for prescription drugs was the toughest bill to pay. About 30% of the survey’s respondents said that prescription drugs represented the greatest financial hardship, followed by hospital bills, ambulance bills, and emergency room visits.
Along with not having the money to pay their medical bills, Medicare beneficiaries also reported a lack of information into helping them understand their healthcare debts. Fewer than half of the survey’s respondents said they were adequately informed about the costs that insurance would cover. Fewer than one-third of respondents reported that their doctors discussed the costs associated with visits, prescriptions, or procedures with them.
Prescription drugs are often seen as a greater financial hardship than other healthcare costs, like hospital visits, because they are a recurring bill, according to Michael Anne Kyle, a doctoral student at Harvard Business School and lead author of the study.
“With a prescription drug, that’s a recurring cost whereas a hospitalization might be less common, but it might be a bigger bill,” Kyle said in a published report. “If [a patient] is hospitalized, they might not have been working or working less, so it could be that the entire financial picture has shifted a bit when they get a hospital bill.”
While expressing their hardships with their medical bills, Medicare beneficiaries overall reported a high level of satisfaction with their coverage, according to the survey.