Rising Healthcare Spending is Taking its Toll on Consumers
By Steve Posa
Executive Vice President, HELP Financial
Healthcare in the United States has been a controversial and difficult subject in politics, industry, and homes. While the quality is some of the best in the world, the affordability is lackluster.
Many variable prices continue to rise and become burdensome consequences to American consumers, affecting individuals and families across all income levels, hitting their finances, health, and quality of life. This produces consequences for individuals, healthcare providers, and the economy, as a frustrating system only increases future economic risks and poor social outcomes.
Lee-Ellen Macon, a 57-year old in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, survived stage IV cancer, but not without fear and financial burdens. She had to pay a $4,000 out-of-network deductible before her coverage kicked in.
"That's a lot to have to pay, when you're a teacher," said Macon to ABC News, who makes about $50,000 a year teaching eighth grade at a public school. Combined with other premiums she had already paid, Macon joined many other Americans who are paying more than 10% of their income for health insurance.
Healthcare is a noble industry, dedicated to healing and caring for people in need. But with these rising costs, it has become an obstacle to a happy and healthy life. Why this is a problem and what can be done about it?
The Patient’s Burden Increases as Healthcare Costs Rise
When costs increase, it ultimately gets passed on to the consumer. As they’re being treated for illnesses, they must consider the financial implications that come with it. This puts them in a difficult situation, which often leads to balancing costs versus their own care.
Medicare alone is projected to cost 18% more by the year 2029. If patients can barely afford healthcare today, imagine an 18% increase in less than 10 years.
These numbers have caused anxiety within homes. Consumers will see these rising costs year-by-year, sinking their confidence for the future of healthcare. We may even be entering a time where it no longer makes sense for families to even get routine care. Already, 37 million prescriptions went unfilled in 2018 because of costs.
Not only are insurance payments high for consumers, but so are the deductibles and co-pays. Today, many people are paying deductibles of $1,000 or more, already with high monthly insurance costs. Since 2006, average deductibles are twice as high.
Even a general doctor’s visit has consequences. The average visit can take two hours with an average cost of $43 of lost wages according to one analysis. If Americans can barely afford their healthcare and other necessities in life, lost wages only compound the matter. This deters consumers from accessing the care they need, which increases the chances of chronic illness and risks.
Healthcare has also proved to be disproportionate. 86% of healthcare costs are due to chronic illnesses, which is a problem, considering only 11% of the population reports having fair to poor health. With the rise of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, resources continue to be stretched, inflating costs for everyone.
With high healthcare costs and deductibles, it has become nearly impossible for many households to support their health – a sad reality for many individuals and families across the nation. Unfortunately, survival may mean making sacrifices, even at the expense of health and well-being.
Employer Influence Is Decreasing
Since the 1920s, employers have provided some sort of health insurance option to employees and is still the highest source and method for access to healthcare today. This has become part of American life and has helped supplement workers' costs for generations.
While costs continue to rise, employers have a hard time keeping up. In many cases, this means less access to care and much higher deductibles for employees.
The New York Times reports that "…premiums and deductibles are pushing employer-based coverage increasingly out of reach… The average premium paid by the employer and the employee for a family plan now tops $20,000 a year, with the worker contributing about $6,000, according to the survey." In the same article, a 27-year-old was forced to quit her job because she couldn't afford care and would qualify for Medicaid.
As employers begin to fade away for a reasonable choice to healthcare solutions, employees are faced with few options for supporting themselves. If employers aren't a solution for reasonable healthcare, then what choice will consumers have in the near future?
Rising Anxiety is Negatively Affecting Health and Raising Costs
Gallup reports that 55% of people report being greatly concerned over healthcare costs. The American Psychiatric Association held a poll that revealed 40% of Americans feel more anxious than last year due to financial stress and less access to much-needed care.
Sam, a 30-something who asked to be identified by a pseudonym when speaking to CNBC, lost tens of thousands in savings paying healthcare bills. It also put a damper on his plans to buy a home. Now, nearly three years since receiving those bills, Sam estimates it will take another three to four years to replenish his savings for a home.
“I have this pervasive anxiety that something bad can happen that will wipe me out again, so I’m not sure I even want to buy,” Sam said.
The estimated yearly cost for an anxiety disorder is about $6,500. This is costly for the healthcare system and for consumers.
While the U.S. economy, politics, and other external factors play a role in consumer stress and anxiety, so do rising healthcare costs. If much of the population worries about being able to afford their care, anxiety will affect their well-being, which in turn can raise their costs.
Healthcare Changes Remain Stagnant
We’re at the crossroads with the healthcare environment. Consumers, employers, and providers are in a difficult situation to create a healthy and fair system. In the past decade, the U.S. government has attempted to make several major changes but opposing parties and factions have disagreed on a solution, delaying the process.
Unfortunately, there are no considerable signs of progress that will change the current state of healthcare, but there is hope.
Through patient financing, consumers can expect to manage their healthcare costs in a reasonable and affordable plan. While the healthcare system is not perfect, this solution can decrease anxiety, alleviate financial barriers, and promote better access to care.
Increasing healthcare costs are crippling consumers through financial and health consequences, with very few present solutions to this problem and minimal progress to change the overall system. It has become a challenge for all parties involved, but through this frustrating need, there is hope for an affordable and stress-free solution. A great healthcare system creates a happier and healthier nation.
Remove Financial Obstacles for Patients
While healthcare spending creates financial obstacles and prevents access to patient healthcare, there’s a solution to give patients hope and create a healthcare environment made with them in mind. A patient-center payment solution makes this possible.
Creating a better health environment for patients builds the opportunity for families to have access to healthcare they truly need. Healthcare is a noble business, focused on taking care of each other.
HELP Financial has options to fit your facility's needs. We provide a superior system to manage and collect the patient portion of health care bills. Our programs are designed for the patient's success. When the patient succeeds, we all succeed.
Contact us today to learn how we can HELP.