Inflation is the main reason nearly a third of Americans are concerned about covering unexpected health care needs
A Deloitte report found that as a result of inflation, many American consumers are making tough choices about household expenses, including whether they can pay for medical care. These decisions about choosing to pay for housing, transportation, prescription drugs, or necessary medical care can affect their health and quality of life.
According to the report, consumers are dealing with economic pressures they didn’t face just a year ago. Food prices at home rose 12.2% between 2021 and 2022, the biggest increase since April 1979. Energy prices rose 41.6% over the same time, the biggest 12 -monthly increase since April 1980. As prices rise in other areas of consumers’ lives, one likely result is that they will have less money for health care needs.
Twenty-six percent of consumers who do not have a health plan that covers virtual visits intend to change their health plans to accommodate. Nearly two-thirds of consumers who visited virtual health care last year cited either convenience (38%) or cost (27%) as the primary reasons they sought virtual health. In response to rising costs, some consumers are putting off routine care, cancer screenings, preventive care and other basic medical needs.
“Inflation can also affect the costs of health equity initiatives, which can further exacerbate inequities and outcomes for historically vulnerable and underserved groups who already struggle to pay for critical needs such as food, housing, transportation, and clothing.” , said Jay Bhatt, DO, MPH, MPA, executive director, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and Deloitte Health Equity Institute, in a statement: “We know that when basic needs go unmet, it can lead to poorer health outcomes and to have a cascading effect. We are poised to reverse the gains we have made in health equity if we are not intentional and thoughtful about how we care for the most vulnerable among us.”
Virtual healthcare may be one way for healthcare systems to combat inflation. According to Deloitte’s 2022 Healthcare Consumer Survey, virtual healthcare visits continue to grow from 22% in 2018 to 44% in early 2022. Some consumers are considering switching healthcare plans if they don’t also offer virtual visits as other more affordable and convenient options. Financial pressures for both consumers and providers and retailers can accelerate the virtual health transformation, providing cost-effective options for consumers and diverse services for providers and retailers to grow, build trust and potentially reduce the effects of inflation, according to Deloitte.
Hospitals, health systems and clinicians are not immune to the financial pressures imposed by a tight labor market and ongoing supply chain issues, so patient retention is critical, the report said. Deloitte research shows that consumers demand reliable healthcare and are willing to move on when they don’t get it. Therefore, healthcare organizations must weave elements of trust into their offerings, including:
- Helping consumers navigate their healthcare journey by using established and trusted entities to help users find information and suppliers.
- Collaborate with trusted community partners such as pharmacies and other community-based organizations.
- Providing (better) cost transparency tools that help users predict costs and resources so they are better prepared.
- Incorporating social drivers of health into discussions with patients so that users can take them into account in their planning and make more informed decisions.
This article originally appeared on Medical Economics.