How many products or services do you buy without knowing the price ahead of time? Chances are, the answer is almost none, if any. But in healthcare, getting services before knowing what you’ll be expected to pay is the norm.
A new survey adds to a body of evidence that uncertainty about healthcare costs deters people from seeking healthcare services.
In data released last week from healthcare AI firm AKASA, 35% of Americans surveyed said they would be deterred from seeing healthcare services for themselves if they didn’t know the price of that service. Just 40% said they would not be deterred by lack of available healthcare price information and one-quarter said they didn’t know if lack of healthcare pricing would get in the way of seeking services.
People are less likely to be deterred by lack of clear pricing when it comes to seeking care for a loved one.
Half (51%) of respondents said they would not be deterred from seeking out care for a dependent even if there were no price information and 18% said they would be deterred on behalf of a dependent. Similarly, half said they would not be deterred from seeking care for a parent or guardian and 20% said they would be deterred due to a lack of price information. Just under one-third (30%) of each group said they weren’t sure if they would be deterred from seeking care for a loved one without price information.
These findings are consistent with other surveys, such as a 2018 poll which showed that approximately 40% of Americans had skipped a recommended medical test or treatment, or avoided going to the doctor when they were sick, because of cost. Of those, 60% said they fear the cost of a serious illness.
Similarly, a 2020 survey showed that 39% of Americans were more afraid of the cost of Covid-19 infection than of getting the virus itself. In that data, 35% of people said they would consider putting off treatment for Covid-19 just to avoid medical bills and 60% said that medical bills were a top source of stress.
Adding to financial uncertainty and fear of unaffordable medical bills is a general lack of awareness that healthcare providers often offer tools to offset or help manage medical bills.
The AKASA survey asked respondents if their doctor or hospital offered payment plans or financial assistance. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they did not know if these financial tools were available. Among uninsured respondents—who may need these tools more than people with insurance to help offset costs—80% said they did not know if financial support was available from their doctor or hospital.
Previously released survey findings from AKASA showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans had never even tried to find the price of a healthcare service. Those results showed that younger people and people on high-deductible health plans were more likely to have searched for healthcare pricing than others.