Consumers are picking up more of the costs of their healthcare than ever.
Once upon a time, consumers could count on their insurance provider to pick up 99 percent of their healthcare costs. Alberto Casellas, Synchrony’s Health & Wellness executive vice president and CEO, told Karen Webster that today, insurers are covering closer to 80 or 90 percent of costs, meaning roughly $350 billion of the $3.5 trillion spent on healthcare annually is coming out of consumers’ pockets, creating a situation in which consumers simply can’t afford care.
When consumers can’t afford care, they simply limit how often they seek it, he said. They start doing things like rationing their medication, skipping necessary doctor visits or wellness exams, and avoiding procedures or completing only portions of treatment plans, among a whole host of things that lead to worse outcomes for patients.
“We want people to take care of themselves and their family and to get the care they need when they need it,” Casellas said.
Synchrony’s CareCredit healthcare credit card was created to make that possible for more consumers via flexible financing options for health, medical and veterinary visits, as well as personal care procedures, medical bills, services and products, he said. CareCredit has been at this for the last three decades — and it is currently the largest player in the space with a network of over 250,000 locations.
Even so, the payment solution has ambitions to grow because needs in the segment are rising, he said. Patients have a greater responsibility than ever to manage their own healthcare, and then find a way to pay for it.
Because patients are picking up more of the tab, credit offerings for patients give providers a new ability “to meet the consumer where they are and offer them options and flexibility around payments.”
Patients are consumers, Casellas noted, and they want what every consumer wants when they walk into a transaction: clarity and choice. They need to know what exactly they’re going to be paying for, and they want options that are “friendly” to their budget when it comes to figuring out how to pay. Giving them that greatly ups the odds they are going to seek the care they need and want.
CareCredit’s internal data indicates that 43 percent of its customers would have skipped or delayed a procedure had they not had access to it.
But opening up the option alone isn’t enough, he said, as consumers can only act on a choice if they know it’s there. As a result, payment options need to be presented to the patient early enough in the process to allow them to actually influence the outcome — meaning the price and payment conversation has to happen earlier.
“Healthcare financing is a new conversation in many ways, and so being able to have that conversation up front is key,” Casellas said. “And I think one of the ways we have innovated in this space is really by teaming up with strategic technology partners and provider management systems where we not only integrate into the flow of that provider’s office manager, but also provide the consumer an opportunity to apply for options they’d like to use to be able to finance that particular medical bill.”
True financing choice, he said, means not just having the ability to finance, but to also choose how to finance care. That might mean installment payments, deferred interest offerings or leasing options, but all are meant to suit the needs of the patient seeking care while also enabling the provider to provide CareCredit.
As the world is reopening and patients are returning to doctors’ offices, orthodontic practices and veterinary clinics in person, the demand for credit products that make it easier for patients (and pet parents) to navigate the system is continually growing and moving into bigger places. Although CareCredit has largely worked with individual providers and offices, he said, it is seeing larger players like hospital systems showing up to bring credit solutions to their patient bases as market demands keep picking up.
“The health system is one [area of focus] that we’re excited about as we see a trend where CareCredit has a [role] to [help patients] finance [medical] procedures in the medical industry inside the hospital [as well as pay off medical bills after care],” he said. “And I think that’s going to continue to get traction over the next 18 months [as more patients seek convenient payment options so they can get the care they need or want].”