Americans Are Tired of Being Surprised by Their Medical Bills

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Imagine the peace of mind of having a medical procedure performed and knowing the cost of the treatment beforehand.

According to a survey by TransUnion Healthcare, 80 percent of consumers said pre-treatment cost estimates and insurance coverage estimates would be helpful in managing medical costs, though just 1 in 4 patients actually receive pre-treatment prices from their medical providers.

It’s really no surprise then that two-thirds of Americans report being consistently surprised when they open their medical bills.

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TransUnion said that for three consecutive years, consumers have indicated that cost transparency improves their perception of their quality of care and whether they’ll continue to use a provider. Says a press release about the survey findings:

“Today’s cost-aware consumer has a greater expectation that providers will offer upfront cost estimates and timely and accurate post-treatment bills. With consumers placing more emphasis on billing and payment when evaluating quality of care, it’s imperative that providers have the technology and processes to meet this consumer demand,” said Dave Wojczynski, senior vice president of TransUnion Healthcare.

The survey found that 80 percent of patients who awarded high ratings for their quality of care also reported having positive billing and payment experiences. “At the same time, nearly 85 percent of patients who gave poor ratings for quality of care also gave poor ratings for their billing and payment experiences,” the survey said.

Wojczynski said:

Front-end solutions that provide upfront cost estimates, and back-end solutions that deliver accurate bills, will be critical as consumers continue to link their billing experience to quality of care. Accurate, timely and transparent cost information will help improve overall patient satisfaction and will increase return visits to providers.

Although the costs related to medical services are always a concern, I’ve never received a cost estimate for medical services beforehand. I was shocked a few months ago when I took my 1-year-old to the doctor for a checkup and immunizations and received a bill in the mail a few days later for more than $800.

I thought there had been a mistake. I called the patient billing office and was surprised to find out that the bill was accurate. My health insurance picked up the majority of the $800 visit, but I had no idea the immunizations were so expensive, so I was definitely caught off guard.

I think it’s easy to feel duped when you have a seemingly small, routine procedure or doctor’s appointment and then you receive a big bill in the mail. That shock and confusion could be alleviated if medical providers were more forthcoming about costs of services.

Does your medical provider offer pre-treatment cost estimates? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Jason

    This a problem. About 10 years ago I was going to have a minor surgery done on my foot. The doctor and hospital refused to give me a cost estimate. The best they would give me is that my part of the cost for the procedure would be between $1000 and $10,000. When I asked my doctor he said not to worry about the bill, I should just send the hospital $5 a month and they wouldn’t send the bill to collection as long as I made any payment no matter how small. The doctor said he had been doing that for years on a procedure he had done. (This from a guy driving a new Hummer!) I said: “Sorry, I actually pay my bills” and cancelled the surgery. A month later I went to a new doctor and he took care of my problem with a couple of office visits. Total cost: about $300.

  • bigpinch

    I’d settle for just mediocre care and not being told what something was going to cost if my insurance Explanation of Benefits (or lack thereof) and the bills I get from my healthcare provider weren’t so cryptic. I resent having to spend so much time trying to figure out what the insurance paid for and the procedures and visits for which I’m being billed. I’d also settle less if the billing from my healthcare provider was accurate and timely. I’d gotten to the point of just writing a check every time a bill arrived and just trusting that it was all going to work out.
    Then, February of this year, I got a letter from a collection agency demanding payment for a bill they said I hadn’t paid. I called them and they had no way to tell me what I was being billed for so I told them to send me an itemized statement. I didn’t hear from them until I got another letter in June, demanding the same payment. I sent them a “drop dead” letter and let it go because I knew that I’d paid every bill I’d ever received.
    Finally, the itemized statement arrived in July and I compared it to the paid bills I had on file. What I discovered was that I had already paid the bill in question not once but twice. Actually, I had written one check for it and a couple of months later, upon being billed a second time, my wife wrote another. We had both cashed checks. I had not looked at the Date of Service for either bill. So, anyway, now I’m trying to get my money back. I waited to do that until I could see if the collection agency had put it on my Experian credit report. They hadn’t.

  • irisheyes57

    Never take your child to your doctors office for their immunizations. Go to the health department. They used to be free there, but now they charge for them. It’s still cheaper than your out of pocket from your insurance company. I had went to Orthopedic Institute of Ohio because I had a hairline fracture in my foot. So I get the first out of pocket bill. Trying to re-adjust bills to pay it. before I received the 2nd bill, I was sent the nasty letter,” If not paid in full in 10 days, it will be sent to collectors”, the next day I received my second bill all in 3 weeks time. I avoid doctors like the plague. Most of the time you go they don’t do a damn thing for you and guess at what you could have then keep going back. They are so far in the pharmaceutical companies bag of money butts it ridiculous.There are more untrustworthy doctors than ones you can trust now a day.