SOURCE: TransUnion

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January 31, 2017 06:00 ET

Survey Finds Healthcare Providers Benefit from Up-Front Cost Estimates, Yet Many Patients Find It Difficult to Secure Such Information

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - January 31, 2017) - Three in four patients (74.7%) said receiving up-front cost estimates would positively impact their view of a healthcare provider, according to a new survey from TransUnion Healthcare (NYSE: TRU). The findings also demonstrate that patient interest in up-front costs has risen over the last 18 months. A similar TransUnion survey in 2015 found that 57% of patients would be more willing to return to a healthcare provider if they were given billing estimates at the point of service.

The survey also found that almost half (43%) said it was somewhat or very difficult to get information on costs, while another 21% of patients had never tried to get procedure cost information. TransUnion surveyed 2,058 consumers at the end of November 2016 who had health insurance, managed their own healthcare decisions, and had received healthcare services in the last year.

"Patients are increasingly evaluating their care experience on whether they received estimates or billing information. Hospitals and healthcare providers have an opportunity to improve patient satisfaction and increase transparency by delivering out-of-pocket cost information before a procedure," said Gerry McCarthy, president of TransUnion Healthcare. "Patients may be more apt to pay their bill in full, leading to increased point-of-service collections and less payment challenges for healthcare providers. Healthcare providers can also screen patients' eligibility for charity care, financial aid or payment plans to provide a better patient payment experience."

Patient Payment Estimation in Action

One healthcare system recently made it a top priority to provide timely, accurate and easy-to-understand estimates for every patient prior to service. Banner Health -- with more than 2 million patient visits per year -- implemented TransUnion's ClearIQ Patient Payment Estimation in 2014. As a result, Banner Health increased point-of-service collections by $17.8 million in two years and expected an increase to $29.4 million at the close of 2016. All 26 Banner Health facilities in the Arizona and Western regions now use the solution at all their registration points.

"ClearIQ makes it easier for our staff to create accurate estimates and ask patients for their financial responsibility prior to service," said Jeni Erikson, senior director at Banner Health. "Our staff likes ClearIQ because it provides an estimate letter that is easy for them to explain to patients, and patients are appreciative that we are showing them what they are actually paying for upfront. Banner has increased point-of-service collections by 24% from 2013 to 2015 after ClearIQ implementation."

Charity Care and Payment Assistance

TransUnion recently launched Community-Based Financial Aid, the newest product in TransUnion's solution suite. Community-Based Financial Aid is a screening solution that uses non-credit, public records data sources to identify patients who may be eligible for charity care or payment assistance.

According to TransUnion's survey, only 16% of patients were offered information about financial assistance programs without asking their healthcare provider for it. However, 63% of patients reported that if a healthcare provider offered such information, it would positively influence their choices of where they receive their care.

"The number of individuals in the United States who are eligible for Medicaid and other financial assistance has risen, and it's critical for healthcare organizations to have multiple methods to determine eligibility," said McCarthy. "Our new solution will allow hospitals and healthcare providers to screen both credit-active patients and patients with limited credit files or minimal financial history."

What's Next for the Affordable Care Act?

In addition to questions about cost estimates, TransUnion asked patients about potential healthcare changes as a result of the presidential election. Six in 10 patients said they were fearful that health insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be disrupted in 2017 or 2018. Approximately one in four (27%) patients believe the new administration will help to simplify healthcare, while another 43% said the new administration will make healthcare more expensive and complex.

"Regardless of impacts from changes to the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers need to be diligent about screening patients at or before care, to verify insurance coverage, estimate payment and determine financial assistance eligibility," added McCarthy. "It's clear that this process benefits both the patient and the healthcare provider. TransUnion is well positioned to help providers with analytics and insights in a disrupted market. Our solutions help providers make data-driven decisions to reduce uncompensated care and revenue cycle expenses."

For more information on TransUnion's suite of solutions, please visit http://www.transunion.com/solution/patient-access-services. For more details on Banner Health's implementation of TransUnion ClearIQ Patient Payment Estimation, read TransUnion's case study.

About TransUnion Healthcare
TransUnion Healthcare, a wholly owned subsidiary of credit and information management company TransUnion, is a trusted provider of revenue cycle management solutions for maximizing reimbursement, improving patient engagement, and ultimately increasing the effectiveness of the healthcare system. We deliver this by leveraging our data assets, market-leading revenue cycle management technologies, and deep insights into consumer financial behavior, to help providers reduce uncompensated care and improve cash flow with one of the most patient-centric revenue cycle management systems on the market today. www.transunionhealthcare.com

About TransUnion (NYSE: TRU)

Information is a powerful thing. At TransUnion, we realize that. We are dedicated to finding innovative ways information can be used to help individuals make better and smarter decisions. We help uncover unique stories, trends and insights behind each data point, using historical information as well as alternative data sources. This allows a variety of markets and businesses to better manage risk and consumers to better manage their credit, personal information and identity. Today, TransUnion has a global presence in more than 30 countries and a leading presence in several international markets across North America, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Through the power of information, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies and families and safer communities worldwide.

We call this Information for Good. http://www.transunion.com/business

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