High-Deductible Plans Jeopardize Financial Health Of Patients And Rural Hospitals

From Kaiser Health News:

Plans with annual deductibles of $3,000, $5,000 or even $10,000 have become commonplace since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as insurers look for ways to keep monthly premiums to a minimum. But in rural areas, where high-deductible plans are even more prevalent and incomes tend to be lower than in urban areas, patients often struggle to pay those deductibles.

That has hit patients like Flowers hard as they grapple with medical debt when emergencies happen — but small rural hospitals like Lincoln Community are suffering, too. These facilities often stabilize critically ill patients and then transfer them to larger regional or urban hospitals for more definitive care.

But when the hospitals submit their claims, bills from the first site of care generally get applied to a patient’s deductible. And if patients can’t afford to cover that amount, those hospitals often don’t get paid, even as the larger urban hospitals where patients were transferred get close to full payment from the health plan.

“As soon as we send them to the city, those things start being paid by the insurance company,” said Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Community, “while we’re still chasing the patient around for collections.”

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