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TransUnion Survey: Healthcare Cost Transparency Major Factor in Patients' Choice of Providers, Health Plans During Open Enrollment

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Nov 20, 2013) - The results of a survey of insured healthcare consumers, released today by TransUnion Healthcare, found that cost transparency is becoming an important factor in patient decisions to seek care, as well as their choice of providers. This survey is the second in a series of TransUnion Healthcare reports that will look at patient billing experiences.

The survey found that a majority of patients (55%) have started paying more attention to the details of their medical bills over the past year. Notably, increased consumer awareness of cost is not limited to out-of-pocket costs like premiums, co-pays and co-insurance payments. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) say they want to know the details of both their own out-of pocket costs and those covered by insurers. Additionally, three quarters (75%) of respondents indicated that previous bills and costs have been either very important (42%) or extremely important (33%) in their decisions to enroll or stay enrolled in health plans.

"Our survey indicates consumers are becoming increasingly cost aware with their healthcare choices," said Milton Silva-Craig, President of TransUnion Healthcare. "As consumer healthcare costs increase, coupled with an expanding number of insured resulting from the healthcare reform law, patients by necessity are becoming more educated consumers, and thus, it will become more important than ever for hospitals and health systems to be transparent with the cost of care they provide. With patients linking their billing experience to their assessment of overall care quality, providers need to ensure they provide timely, accurate information for consumers to improve patient satisfaction."

The survey determined that certain characteristics of the billing process are just as important to consumers in choosing providers as doctor consultations, clinical reputations, and other more traditional factors. For example, when asked to rank the importance of various experiences/characteristics in choosing a provider, respondents gave "makes it easy to see the cost of services..." the second highest average ranking after "world class specialists and technology." Other experiences/characteristics rated in order of preference, included high quality scores, proximity to home, clear and accurate bills, and help with determining Medicaid/Medicare eligibility.

The survey also found consumers are becoming increasingly aware of health costs and the details of their bills, and are linking the billing experience to overall quality of care. Patient billing and cost information is poised to become an even more important force in the marketplace in coming months as consumers begin to explore the new health insurance exchanges from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The results indicate that the ACA has been a driver of increased patient attention to costs, as a healthy majority of participants in the survey indicated that reform has made them more concerned about a wide array of cost issues. In fact, the survey found that reform has led to more concern about cost than it has to issues like access to specialists, appointment availability, and ability to get coverage. Sixty percent or more of respondents said that health reform has made them "more concerned" about the cost of coverage (63%), out-of-pocket cost (62%) and the total cost of care (60%), while roughly half said the same about access to specialists (50%) and getting appointments (47%).

Additionally, the survey revealed that patients who experience a clear, transparent billing process -- and especially those that received more information about the expected costs on the front-end of the process -- are far more likely to give the highest ratings to their overall quality of care. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of patients who rated their quality of care highly also gave high marks to billing experiences, while 69% of those who rated their quality of care as poor also gave poor marks to their billing experiences.

"The healthcare environment is rapidly changing and shows no signs of slowing down," said Silva-Craig. "As the ACA has prompted increased consumer focus on the billing and cost aspect of care, it is imperative for payers and providers to start looking at their patients as customers of their healthcare service offerings and look for ways to update their services to improve patient satisfaction with the quality of care received."

About the survey

The online survey included responses from 1,039 insured household decision-makers who had either personally received medical care, or had a family member on their policy receive care in the past two years. The survey took place from October 31, 2013 through November 2, 2013.

About TransUnion

As a global leader in information and risk management, TransUnion creates advantages for millions of people around the world by gathering, analyzing and delivering information. For businesses, TransUnion helps improve efficiency, manage risk, reduce costs and increase revenue by delivering high quality data, and integrating advanced analytics and enhanced decision-making capabilities. For consumers, TransUnion provides the tools, resources and education to help manage their credit health and achieve their financial goals. Through these and other efforts, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies worldwide. Founded in 1968 and headquartered in Chicago, TransUnion reaches businesses and consumers in 33 countries around the world on five continents. www.transunion.com/business