Americans Are Tired of Being Surprised by Their Medical Bills

A recent TransUnion Healthcare survey found that just 25 percent of patients receive pre-treatment cost estimates.


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.

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.

Stacy Johnson

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