Skip to main content

35% of Patients Would Put Off COVID-19 Treatment to Avoid Medical Bills

Analysis  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   June 04, 2021

The new VisitPay survey also showed that more than one-third of patients said they're more worried about the financial burdens associated with COVID-19 than actually becoming sick.

Another survey is showing that patients' healthcare cost worries sometimes outweigh their COVID-19 concerns.

The 2021 VisitPay Report showed that 35% of patients said they would put off COVID-19 treatment to avoid medical bills, and more than one-third said they're more worried about the financial burdens associated with COVID-19 than actually becoming sick.

Their fears may not be too off the mark, considering new research from the University of Michigan showing that without payer cost-sharing waivers, people with job-related or self-purchased insurance could face bills of about $3,800 for a COVID-19 hospitalization.

VisitPay surveyed 1,661 adults for its report, which asked participants about patient financial behaviors and attitudes, including bill-paying habits and preferences.

For instance, it showed that there's been a significant shift in digital payment preferences over the past several years.

For instance, preference for paper statements has declined over 20% from 2019 to 2021, and patient usage of the VisitPay platform from a mobile device has increased 250% since 2016.

Patients also want more flexibility in their payment options than ever before. The survey found that patients are twice as likely to use health system payment plans to manage medical bills compared to 2019.

Here are some other notable survey findings:

  • 2021 saw a 100% increase in patients obtaining cost estimates prior to care since 2019.
  • Although 60% of respondents cite medical bills as a source of stress, only 9% place them as a high priority relative to other bills they pay.
  • Frustration about medical bills most often comes from surprise costs (31%), lack of clarity (20%), unclear charges (18%), and lack of payment options (10%).
  • 48% of respondents are interested in paying medical bills in monthly installments.
  • Fewer patients said health systems had failed to provide information on payment options, declining from 57% to 45% during the three years from 2018 to 2020.

Preference for paper statements has consistently declined, from 69% in 2018 to 54% in 2020.

These findings echo others from the Patientco 2021 State of the Patient Financial Experience Report, which found that nearly one-third of patients say they've avoided care because they were worried about what they would owe.

Also, 45% of patients in that survey said they would need financial assistance for bills that exceed $500 and 66% would need it for bills that exceed $1,000.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.