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Paying Medical Bills Can Be an Emotionally Fraught Experience

Analysis  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   December 17, 2021

Feeling relieved (44%) and intimidated (36%) are the top emotions most commonly associated with paying medical bills, a new survey finds.

A new consumer survey digs into the powerful emotions, as well as the experiences, involved in paying medical bills, with 56% of respondents saying that medical bills are a top source of stress.

More than 1,000 patients who've paid for medical care in the past 12 months were included in the survey by Researchscape on behalf of VisitPay.

It finds that feeling relieved (44%) and intimidated (36%) are the top emotions most commonly associated with paying medical bills.

Most patients either strongly agree (31%) or agree (33%) that paying medical bills is very stressful, and 37% say they've received a surprise bill from their main medical provider in the past year.

Although paying bills of any kind is not likely anyone's favorite activity, stressful medical billing situations have ripple effects that impact both patients and providers.

For instance, the survey showed that 34% of respondents have ever considered switching health providers due to a poor bill payment experience.

Also worryingly, 38% say they have ever lost trust in a health provider because of a negative billing experience.

There were a few bright spots, though, indicating that providers are making strides in providing some relief for the stressful experience of paying medical bills.

Most people described their medical billing experiences as either extremely personalized (11%), very personalized (24%), or somewhat personalized (38%).

In addition, more consumers used words like flexible (59%) and compassionate (22%) to describe their main medical provider's billing style, than words like aggressive (22%) or predatory (6%), and 72% said they're given the flexibility they need to pay their medical bills over time.

The survey also asked respondents to share their biggest frustrations with their online medical billing platform and were allowed to choose all that applied. Here's what they selected:

  • Lack of customer support (25%)
  • Surprise costs (25%)
  • Lack of insurance coverage information/explanation of benefits (24%)
  • Unclear charges and dates (23%)
  • No/poor payment plan options (19%)
  • Lack of family consolidation options (17%)
  • Payment methods are inconvenient (16%)

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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