According to data from the Center of Medicare and Medicaid, total hospital expenditures grew by 160% over 16 years, from $415.5 billion in 2000 to just under $1.1 trillion in 2016. Hospitals are constantly looking for ways to keep the costs down, but this has become more of a challenge over the years.
Jonathan Wiik, principal for health care strategy at TransUnion Healthcare, says that this increase is largely a result of increasing uncompensated hospital care. Patients are becoming responsible for a larger percentage of the hospital bill, but most cannot afford the high prices.
According to Healthcare Dive, a projection from Moody’s Investor Services predicts that hospital debt will grow six to seven percent in 2018. A CNN report predicts another setback for hospital finances. According to the report, by 2025 there will be a shortage of 11,000 physicians and surgeons in the United States. As hospitals try to entice new professionals by offering pay raises, hospital costs will go up to cover the salaries.
The average cost of one day in a hospital in 2013 was $4,293. This number — and numbers that exceed it — have become expected in hospitals across the United States. According to Chuck Bell from the Consumers Union, an average American can take steps to lower their bill as much as possible.
Bell recommends managing the bill as soon as the hospital stay begins. A patient should request only being treated by in-network doctors, and to sign off on all tests and treatments before they happen. The smallest procedures at a hospital can have the biggest price tag.
Bell also recommends asking for an itemized bill. Depending on the procedure, the bill could be pages long, but an educated buyer can catch errors and save money. Asking the insurance company why they won’t cover certain costs could also transfer some of the patient’s financial burden to the company. A patient can file an internal or external appeal for the company to cover a test or treatment that the hospital says is medically necessary.
“You really need to put your best foot forward and remain civil and polite. The thing to realize is the bill you’ve received is not necessarily the final bill,” says Bell.