Financial Assistance Offered by Hospitals Continued Dramatic Rise in 2021: TransUnion

The number of patients receiving information about financial assistance options that may be available to them continued to grow in 2021, according to data released recently by TransUnion Healthcare, and has increased by 270% since it started tracking the data just three years ago.

In the past year, the number of financial assistance transactions — which offer options to payments to help them pay their medical bills — has increased 55%.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is an easy — and likely — target to blame for the uptick, there is also another culprit, one that can be just as confusing and complicated — hospital billing practices.

“This data reflect the increased financial pressure on healthcare systems as well as patients who are struggling with the burden of high healthcare costs,” said Jonathan Wiik, principal of healthcare strategy at TransUnion Healthcare, in a statement. “We are recommending that hospitals engage patients confidently and increase transparency and communication in regard to billing, beginning with providing patients a clear understanding of the cost of care at intake, and then streamlining financial clearance and charity screening throughout the revenue cycle.”

In citing hospital billing practices as an area that needs improvement, TransUnion noted that 70% of patients can budget their payments if they know the cost of a procedure beforehand, and 65% said they would make a partial payment in an advance estimate were provided. More than a third of patients have deferred seeking medical attention because they already have outstanding bills and either don’t want to face a doctor who is going to demand payment before a visit or because they don’t want to incur more debt.

Given recent data that reveals that premiums on healthcare insurance continued to rise in 2021, it is likely that the volume of financial assistance transactions will continue to rise in lock-step. Is the healthcare industry approaching a tipping point where the costs just get too high?

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