Can Patients Pay?
From the McKinsey Quarterly:
Will US consumers pay for health care?
Relationships among patients, medical providers, and payers in the United States are changing. The recent health care insurance law, for example, is one of many things that will increase the consumers’ role as previously uninsured people utilize medical services and become responsible for balance-after-insurance payments. This shift poses challenges for providers too: few can estimate a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses, present a bill at the point of service, and collect immediately. Instead, they send a bill, often weeks later, and hope that the patient antes up. But there are few deterrents to nonpayment since providers rarely pursue deadbeats aggressively.
Conventional wisdom, therefore, says that many US consumers can’t—or won’t—pay such bills. Yet McKinsey research suggests otherwise. More than 74 percent of insured consumers responding to a survey are willing and able to discharge out-of-pocket medical expenses of less than $1,000 a year. But many respondents say that a lack of financing options and sheer confusion are major problems.
Putting 'consumers' at risk for paying a greater portion of health care costs places providers at risk, especially when caring for patients with more than modest health care needs. The fact that 74% of insured consumers are willing to discharge medical expenses of less than $1000 per year is not reassuring. In situations requiring moderate to high levels of care, $1000 will be spent quickly. What will providers do when they must offer care worth many times that amount but without a mechanism for receiving payment?
The current legislation from Washington DC is a house of cards. Believing that patients will be a stable source of funding for expensive health care is one of the reasons this house of cards will fall.
Dr. Joe Jarvis