TransUnion Survey Finds Patients Want More Transparency in Hospital Bills and Knowledge of Charity Care Programs
Chicago, November 5, 2009 – A national survey of recent hospital patients commissioned by TransUnion found that two-thirds of adults nationwide would like to see greater transparency in their hospital bill while only three in 10 of those surveyed were aware they could possibly qualify for charity care programs.
The results of the survey are being released in conjunction with TransUnion’s announcement of a new healthcare patient payment estimator at the HFMA Revenue Cycle Strategy Conference in Chicago. TransUnion, which offers a suite of healthcare financial solutions designed to help healthcare providers improve their revenue cycle operations, is implementing the patient payment estimator in hospitals beginning this November.
“With patients assuming greater financial responsibility for managing their healthcare dollars, the demand for improved patient pricing transparency becomes paramount as well as the need to understand those charity benefits that are available to patients,” said Milton Silva-Craig, executive vice president of TransUnion’s healthcare group. “Our new patient payment estimator solution is just one of many services TransUnion provides to help hospitals better meet the needs of the patients and communities they serve as well as address the broader financial challenges impacting the industry.”
The patient payment estimator is a tool that allows healthcare providers to simplify the patient billing process. Estimating the amount a patient owes prior to service is an extremely complex undertaking due to all of the factors that can change prior to an insurance claim being processed by the patient’s insurance company (e.g. medical complications, additional services, deductible levels and coinsurance amounts).
The increase in consumer driven health plans (CDHPs) across the industry is leading many patients to take the financial aspect of their care into consideration prior to electing certain services. Providing an estimate of the patient’s financial responsibility also allows the healthcare provider to further assist the patient if they do not have the ability to pay for the service. Combining TransUnion’s Revenue Manager solution with a patient payment estimator allows healthcare providers to determine the amount owed and then identify and qualify those patients for programs and/or charity benefits available based on their individual situation.
Riverside Regional Medical Center in Virginia will be the first healthcare system to integrate the patient payment estimator with TransUnion’s Revenue Manager, providing an improved patient billing experience. Riverside will have the ability to clearly communicate the amount a patient is estimated to owe and when eligible, assist them in enrolling into a charity program that will allow them to meet their financial responsibility. Streamlining this process will ultimately improve patient satisfaction and reduce Riverside’s cost of patient collections.
"Riverside is excited about being able to determine charity eligibility at the time of registration with this new product,” said Richelle Fleischer, administrative director at Riverside Regional Medical Center. “Combining the credit scoring data to determine charity eligibility with a contract based patient liability estimator will equip our patient access team to have a meaningful dialog with patients regarding their specific patient responsibility beyond just co-pays. We expect this to have significant impact on our insured bad debt as we will know who has the ability to pay at the time of service, and who might need some type of assistance."
The implementation of the solution comes at time when Americans are seeking more detail in their healthcare bills. The survey found that 67 percent of adults nationwide who have recently been hospital patients agree they would feel better about their hospital visit if there was greater transparency about the amount they owe on their bill prior to, or during the registration process.
The survey also noted that younger patients sought more transparency. More than 78 percent (78.5) of patients between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed that they would feel better about their hospital visit if there was greater transparency in their hospital bill. This percentage was far greater than those patients between the ages of 30 and 49 (68.4 percent), 50 and 64 (66.9 percent) and 65 and older (58.4 percent). The results also found that men tended to look for more transparency in their bills (74.1 percent) as compared to women (61.5 percent).
From a geographic distinction, the survey noted patients in the West sought more pricing transparency. Between 62 and 65 percent of patients in the East, South and Central Great Lakes said they would feel better about their hospital visit with greater transparency in their bills as compared to more than 80 percent of patients from the West.
As for knowledge about charity care programs, only 29 percent of those surveyed are aware that during a hospital visit or stay they may qualify for charity care benefits. Two-thirds (67 percent) are not aware they may qualify for such free or reduced healthcare expenses.
The youngest and oldest patients had the least amount of knowledge about these programs. Only 20 percent (20.3) of patients between the ages of 18 and 29 and 25.4 percent of persons 65 or older said they were aware they could potentially qualify for charity care.
More information about TransUnion’s healthcare solutions can be found at www.transunion.com/healthcare or by contacting Jim Bohnsack, vice president of product development in TransUnion’s healthcare group, at firstname.lastname@example.org.