Report finds healthcare billing, payment systems concern consumers

More than 40 percent people in fair or poor health found their medical bills were unaffordable and more than 25 percent said the bills were inaccurate and difficult to understand.

The results of the PwC Health Research Institute survey were released on May 7.

The researchers surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. and asked about their billing and payment experiences with hospitals, pharmacies and insurance companies. They also evaluated claims from 34 million people in the U.S. from the Truven Health MarketScan 2012 commercial claims database.

“The industry is burdened with systems that do not work together and bills that are difficult for the average consumer to decipher,” they wrote.

They suggested healthcare-related companies transform their billing and payment models. Whereas 43 percent of businesses conduct their payment online, only 15 percent of commercial health insurers do so, according to the researchers.

They wrote that online payment sites, mobile applications and aggregated billing would help simplify systems for consumers and provide them with another option that could lead to more bills being paid on time.

In 2014, 61 percent of workers were enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans that had deductibles of at least $1,000 for single coverage, while people in the U.S. will spend an estimated $345 billion on cost-sharing provisions such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.

The PwC report found 42 percent of respondents said they could not afford their medical bills, 28 percent said they were not confident that their bills were accurate, 31 percent said the bills were difficult to pay and 25 percent said the billing damaged their view of the hospital.

Researchers also found that people making more than $100,000 per year were most dissatisfied with the billing and payment system.

“Many improvements can be made in the near-term, from offering consumers cost and payment information before they arrive for service to aggregating their medical bills on a simple online site,” the researchers wrote. “In the longer term, the system will need to be re-engineered to accommodate the millions of consumers paying cash for care.”