Study: More Patients Lag on Paying Hospital Bills in Full

6/29/2017 10:00 AM

An analysis from TransUnion Healthcare shows the change is more pronounced since 2014.


The percentage of consumers not paying their hospital bills in full has increased in recent years, according to a new analysis from TransUnion Healthcare.

In 2016, approximately 68 percent of consumers with medical bills of $500 or less did not pay the total balance, an increase from 53 percent of consumers in 2015 and 49 percent in 2014.

“There are many reasons why more patients are struggling to make their healthcare payments in full, the most prominent of which are higher deductibles and the increase in patient responsibility from 10 percent to 30 percent over the last few years,” said Jonathan Wiik, principal for healthcare revenue cycle management at TransUnion, in a news release. “This shift in healthcare payments has been taking place for well over a decade, but we are seeing more pronounced changes in how hospital bills are paid during just the last few years.”

TransUnion Healthcare also projects this trend could continue in the future.

According to the analysis, TransUnion Healthcare reports the percentage of consumers not paying their total hospital bills will increase to 95 percent by 2020.

“The study also revealed that the percentage of patients that have made partial payments toward their hospital bills has gone down dramatically from 89-90 percent in 2015-2016 to 77 percent in 2016,” according to the news release.

Additional findings from TransUnion Healthcare’s analysis on payment patterns between 2014 and 2016 include:

  • 63 percent of hospital bills were $500 or less; of those hospital bills, 68 percent were not paid in full in 2016;
  • 14 percent of hospital bills were $3,000 or more; of those hospital bills, 99 percent were not paid in full in 2016;
  • 10 percent of hospital bills were $500 to $1,000; of those bills 85 percent were not paid in full in 2016.

“Higher deductibles and the increase in patient responsibility are causing a decrease in patient payments to providers for patient care services rendered,” said John Yount, vice president for healthcare products at TransUnion, in the news release. “While uncompensated care has declined, it appears to be primarily due to the increased number of individuals with Medicaid and commercial insurance coverage.”

Uncompensated care is the total of a hospital’s bad debt and the financial assistance it provides.

Despite the decline in uncompensated care, TransUnion Healthcare reports in 2015 hospitals still wrote off approximately $35.7 billion as bad debt or charity care.

“With millions of dollars in unpaid medical debt, hospitals have begun implementing new processes to prevent revenue leakage while also providing a better patient experience,” Yount said.

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