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Out-of-pocket costs increased 14% in 2018

June 26, 2019

Topics: Quote of the Day

By Tara Bannow
Modern Healthcare, June 25, 2019

Patients’ out-of-pocket costs for inpatient services increased by 14% on average between 2017 and 2018, according to a new report from TransUnion Healthcare.

Revenue-cycle management provider TransUnion revealed its findings Tuesday during the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

Last year, patients who received inpatient care saw the biggest hikes in their out-of-pocket costs. Patients’ deductibles and co-pays averaged $4,659 for an inpatient visit in 2018, compared with $4,086 in 2017.

Outpatient care saw a noteworthy uptick of its own. Patients’ out-of-pocket costs averaged $1,109 for an outpatient visit in 2018, up 12% compared with $990 in 2017.

Parallon, HCA Healthcare’s revenue-cycle subsidiary, has observed patients’ co-pays and deductibles increasing between 6% and 8% annually for at least seven years, said Eric Ward, Parallon’s CEO.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

According to this report, co-pays and deductibles have been increasing between 6% and 8% for at least seven years, and it is getting worse. Between 2017 and 2018, the increase in out-of-pocket costs was 14% on average.

Recent polls have shown that it is the costs of health care about which the public is most concerned, yet the insurance industry appears to be relatively insensitive to these issues. Also a recent poll showed that much of the public is not aware that the single payer model of Medicare for All would eliminate deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments.

In advocating for single payer Medicare for All, it is important to deliver this point. There are no out-of-pocket expenses for accessing health care. The system is prepaid by fair taxes based ability to pay. Most individuals would be paying less than they do now, though much of what they are paying is hidden from them (forgone wage increases for employer contributions to plans, and general revenue taxes that pay for much of government-funded health care which is about 60% of all health care spending).

It is also important that they know that single payer uses tools to slow the rate of increases in health care costs, providing greater financial security for the future.

These out-of-pocket costs are highly visible to the patients. They need to understand that they would go away under single payer Medicare for All.

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

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Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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