When Healthcare is Expensive: the Impact on the Patient Financial Experience

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Healthcare providers must add how patients experience the financial side of healthcare to the many areas that require their focus and staff training, according to the HealthStream article, “Footing the Bill - Improving the Patient Financial Experience Is Increasingly Critical for Provider Profitability.” This blog post is the second in a series of excerpts from the article.

Healthcare is expensive.

A fairly routine inpatient procedure likely will cost the patient, even with insurance, well into the thousands of dollars. There’s also significant sticker shock for consumers, not just around inpatient stays and surgeries, but for day-to-day medical needs. News reports abound of people skipping costly prescriptions due to affordability. And if they’re not taking their pills, how much less likely are they to see a physician and/or have a necessary surgery or other medical intervention due to cost?

The numbers are unpleasant:

  • The per-person healthcare cost in the United States sits at more than $10,000 in 2016 (Gillies, 2018), a figure that has continued to climb.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that premiums for family plans increased 5 percent in 2018 to an average of $19,616, while individual premiums increased 3 percent to $6,896 (Richman, 2018). That’s three times as fast as inflation—and twice as fast as workers’ earnings—since 2008.

Healthcare Costs Generate Patient Anxiety

Data proves the connection between high healthcare costs and patient anxiety:

The University of Chicago and West Health Institute found that Americans are more afraid of care than of illness. A third of those surveyed were “extremely afraid” or “very afraid” of getting seriously ill, while about 40 percent said paying for healthcare frightened them more than being sick (Gillies, 2018).

A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll found that 67 percent of people worry about unexpected medical bills more than deductibles, prescription drug costs, or even basic staples such as rent, food, and gas. (KFF, 2018)

No consumer enjoys paying bills—particularly high ones—so the challenge for healthcare providers is very real. This article looks more closely at the following reasons causing patients, their pocketbooks, and many healthcare organizations, some anxiety:

  • Providing high-quality healthcare means delivering on many components.
  • High-deductible plans expand coverage but depress outcomes.
  • Premiums continue to rise, and consumers continue to demand coverage.
  • Healthcare pricing remains a veiled mystery.
  • Patients are avoiding care, which drives up costs and depresses outcomes.
  • Providers think they are powerless in this situation.



Gillies, Trent, “Why health care costs are making consumers more afraid of medical bills than an actual illness,” CNBC, April 22, 2018, Retrieved at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/22/why-health-care-costs-are-making-consumers-more-afraid-of-medical-bills-than-an-actual-illness.html

KFF/Kirzinger, A., Wu, B., Munana, C., & Brodie M., “Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – Late Summer 2018: The Election, Pre-Existing Conditions, and Surprises on Medical Bills,” September 5, 2018, Retrieved at https://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-late-summer-2018-the-elec­tion-pre-existing-conditions-and-surprises-on-medical-bills/

Richman, Eli, “Employee healthcare costs continue to rise as premium and deductible hikes exceed wage growth,” October 3, 2018, Retrieved at https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/healthcare-costs-continue-to-hit-employees-pocketbooks-premium-and-deductible-hikes-far


Download the full article here.