- InstaMed report: 87% of consumers were surprised by a medical bill in 2021, while only 21% of providers prioritize price transparency for patients.
- The number of stories about COVID-19 long-haulers seems to be on the increase.
- Hospital markets in many large U.S. cities are racially segregated, according to the latest Lown Institute report.
Over the last few weeks, I have found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.
1. Report: 87% of consumers were surprised by a medical bill in 2021
“[There’s] a growing disconnect between perception and reality for consumers in healthcare payments,” according to a March 24 InstaMed news release.
According to InstaMed’s Trends In Healthcare Payments Annual Report, 87% of consumers were surprised by a medical bill in 2021, while only 21% of providers prioritize price transparency for patients.
“The trends in healthcare payments reflect much of the turmoil of the pandemic,” wrote the report’s authors. “However, data also paints a clearer picture of what is needed to better move forward.”
Among the report’s consumer trend highlights, of those who received a surprise bill last year:
- 56% got a bill for more than expected
- 50% received an unexpected bill
- 19% were sent to collections
- 14% received a refund
“The price tags of these surprise medical bills can be hefty,” wrote the authors, noting the cost of surprise medical bills averages between $750 and $2,600.
“To alleviate the burden of these costs, healthcare can empower consumers with personalized experiences connected by efficient and convenient payments,” according to the report.
For payers, “the payment experience represents an opportunity … to focus their digital strategy and member engagement,” the authors wrote.
Payer trends, according to the report, include:
- 90% expect healthcare costs to rise over the next few years
- 86% are prioritizing the member engagement experience in 2022
- 41% experienced difficulty in collecting premiums
For providers, financial stressors are among the pandemic’s challenges, wrote the authors. Providers indicated that 20% of their financial concern is related “to the ongoing pandemic,” and one in five expressed concern over patient bad debt.
Provider trends, according to the report, include:
- 75% use paper and manual processes for collections
- 74% say it takes more than one statement to collect
- 51% are prioritizing the digital payment experience for patients
2. Long-haul COVID stories are in the news even as COVID-19 cases in U.S. dwindle
The number of stories about COVID-19 long-haulers seems to be on the increase even as actual COVID-19 cases and deaths seem to be declining.
“Hospitalization and death rates may be low amid the current stage of the coronavirus pandemic, but for patients undergoing the long-lasting impacts of the virus, there’s still little light at the end of the tunnel,” according to a March 28 NBC 4 New York online article.
The article quotes Thomas Gut, DO, the director of the Post-COVID Recovery Center at Staten Island University Hospital, saying: “About a third of the patients that come in here are telling us that they can’t sleep, can’t remember words, difficulty with expressing themselves.”
Number of long-haul COVID sufferers
How many people are struggling with post-COVID symptoms? “Just over one in four COVID cases in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are estimated to become long COVID or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” according to the author of the NBC 4 piece, who attributed the statement to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
The article went on to quote Greg Vanichkachorn, MD, the medical director of Mayo Clinic’s COVID Activity, saying during a presentation: “Estimates show that 10-30% of people who become infected with COVID-19 will end up coming down with long-haul COVID. And it does look like that long-haul COVID could be a new chronic infection for some folks and be a new baseline.”
Long-haul symptoms that matter most
According to a March 28 article in Parade, chronic fatigue and brain fog are the symptoms “you should really be looking out for,” said Tae Chung, MD, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurology and the director of the Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) Program at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Other symptoms that “could be related to long COVID,” are shortness of breath, changes in smell or taste, headaches, heart palpitations, rash, fever, dizziness, chronic nausea and vomiting, and alternating constipation and diarrhea, wrote the author of the Parade article.
3. Lown Institute: The most racially segregated hospital markets in the United States include Detroit, St. Louis and Kansas City
“Hospital markets in many large U.S. cities are racially segregated,” with Detroit, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, at the top, according to a new report from the Lown Institute.
“Cities were determined to have segregated hospital care based on the proportion of hospitals whose patients closely matched community demographics compared to hospitals whose patients did not,” according to the report’s authors.
Top 10 racially segregated markets
According to the report, the top 10 racially segregated markets are:
- Detroit – 90%
- St. Louis – 77%
- Kansas City, Mo. – 75%
- Atlanta – 68%
- Philadelphia – 68%
- Washington, D.C. – 63%
- East Long Island – 61%
- Houston – 58%
- Baltimore – 56%
- Manhattan – 55%
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