Hospitals around the country are reporting record levels of debt on their books from an unlikely source: patients with health care coverage.
As health insurers and employers have shifted health care costs to patients through high deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses, people who in the past may not have worried about paying for a hospital visit or a surgical procedure are getting hit with massive medical bills that they can’t pay.
Duke University Health System has seen patient interest-free payment plans rise from $19 million in June 2010 to $43 million in January. The increase is largely attributable to rising deductibles, said Keith Stover, Duke’s vice president of finance and chief financial officer.
Duke is fielding 1,500 patient calls a day, most of them asking why they got a bill since they’re insured, Stover said. The call volume is up from about 1,000-1,200 five years ago, he said.
“It’s something everyone in the country is thinking about,” Stover said. “This stuff is mind-blowing – they really don’t understand their benefits until it’s too late.”