Consumers are frustrated with the healthcare billing process and face challenges when it comes to identifying and solving billing errors, according to a survey from Zelis and Hanover Research.
The online survey gathered responses from 800 US consumers who had found at least one medical billing error in the last five years.
Half of the respondents reported incorrect charges of at least $200, while a quarter reported billing errors of $500 or more. These errors translated to a substantial amount of unnecessary healthcare spending.
More than four in 10 consumers (41 percent) reported being significantly frustrated with addressing medical billing errors. The top challenges they faced were figuring out whom to contact and how to find the correct contact information for billing corrections.
Respondents also struggled with understanding their healthcare bills and the billing process, with only 30 percent of people feeling extremely confident in their ability to identify an error in their medical bill.
Among consumers who noticed a billing error, 32 percent identified the mistake by comparing charges with estimated costs. Nearly 30 percent compared their charges to the explanation of benefits or noticed items on the bill that differed from their care experience.
The prospect of saving money motivated 62 percent of respondents to begin the billing correction process. However, the process can be time-consuming, with 43 percent of consumers spending up to one month getting bills corrected.
In addition, 70 percent of people who attempted to resolve a billing error spent more than two hours on the process, the study found.
“Our research reinforces that healthcare billing systems are complicated, and bills can be complex and with the potential for errors,” Michael Axt, chief member empowerment officer at Zelis, said in the press release. “This negatively impacts healthcare consumers, particularly those with lower incomes or less health literacy.”
Most consumers (80 percent) believe their health insurance plan could have a better process for resolving billing errors, including better service, clear options, and faster resolutions.
According to the press release, incorrect billing is happening more often as healthcare providers increasingly ask patients to pay for services in advance based on estimates. These estimates may not account for claims that have yet to be processed by other providers, thus leading to inaccurate, high costs.
Past data has found that almost 40 percent of consumers found medical bills either somewhat or extremely confusing. Their top concern was understanding what they were being billed for, followed by concerns about their ability to pay the bill. Twenty percent of consumers were uncertain if their final bill would be consistent with the estimate they received.
Financial assistance programs can help consumers manage their medical bill challenges, but nearly two-thirds of consumers were unaware of these resources, one study found.