Healthcare Installment Options Proving a Curative for Common Payments Problems

healthcare payment

As the healthcare sector continues its own recovery from COVID-19 and various variants, among the most promising innovations are not in treatments, but rather in payments.

Elective surgeries and other profitable procedures cratered during the pandemic. With a sluggish economy and unemployment still confronting many Americans, grafting the success of buy now, pay later (BNPL) onto the medical sector has transformative promise.

As Experian Health Product Management Director Matt Baltzer said, “If it’s a clearly scheduled visit and elective to some extent, providers will ask for all or part of that to be paid upfront. In that type of scenario, you’ve got the opportunity to drive for an upfront payment plan.”

Payment plans are offered by some providers, but by no means are they ubiquitous or well understood by consumers. New PYMNTS study The Payment Cure: How Improving Billing Experiences Impacts Patient Loyalty, a CareCredit collaboration, found that that 33 percent of consumers did not seek medical treatment due to financial constraints or other reasons.

That study found that 70% of consumers economically hurting are interested in alternative payments, although 47% of all patients don’t know if their provider offers payment plans or third-party financing. Of the 31% of patients aware of such options, over half choose them.

Market watchers believe that figure could skyrocket if healthcare payment plans with affordable terms are made more available.

See: The Payment Cure: How Improving Billing Experiences Impacts Patient Loyalty

Most Patients Want Payment Plans

A desire for greater flexibility in healthcare payments is driving changes in the sector, which for years has been plagued with payments, billing and collections challenges post-treatment.

In the PYMNTS study Generation HealthTech: How Digital Tools Amplify Millennial Patient Loyalty, a collaboration with Rectangle Health, researchers found that “Most patients — 56 percent — are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ interested in payment plans.”

Of particular interest from that study is the finding that 73 percent of bridge millennials and younger cohorts are “very” or “extremely” interested in payment plans, yet researchers also discovered that “many healthcare consumers are not offered payment plans despite their interest in them. Clear onboarding processes for new patients can help limit confusion during payment and prevent missed payments.”

While companies like CareCredit and Rectangle Health are at the forefront of payment plan offerings in the sector, pureplay BNPL brands may be coming into the picture as well.

BNPL giant Affirm announced its Adaptive Checkout feature on Wednesday (Sept. 22), giving merchants on its network greater ability to “deliver personalized payment options based on the transaction size as well as a real-time underwriting decision.”

The concept could extend to the healthcare sector, as many see a huge opportunity for practices that integrate BNPL, and a major missed opportunity for those that don’t.

Related: Generation HealthTech: How Digital Tools Amplify Millennial Patient Loyalty

‘Care Now, Pay Later’ Is Trending in Pandemic Era

The problem of mounting medical debt on the consumer side and the pandemic-era downturn in medical procedures hurting medical practices on the other has everyone looking for options.

Online lending marketplace LendingTree released data in Q1 showing that 60 percent of Americans have struggled with medical bills. In a subsequent conversation with PYMNTS, Rectangle Chief Technology Officer Mike Peluso spoke of the growing need for “care now, pay later” offerings.

In a PYMNTS TV segment, Peluso said “Care is often too expensive, and it’s not too expensive because the provider is overpriced; providers don’t control prices. It’s too expensive because the patient may have a $2,000 deductible. The provider can’t control that, but they can control the ability to deliver the care and what options the patient has for paying over time.”

See also: Care Now, Pay Later Removes Cash Flow Tradeoffs For Patients, Healthcare Providers