Delaying Care Adds to Rising Surgery Costs and More

Delaying Care Adds to Rising Surgery Costs and More
September 7, 2022 Sue Riordan
surgery costs rising

Did you put off seeing your doctor, or even having surgery in 2020? If you did, you’re not alone.

Recent statistics from PwC Health Research Institute show 15 percent of Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance reported deferring some care between March and September 20201.

What types of care? Many patients skipped annual preventive visits, lab and diagnostic testing, routine procedures, surgeries, and more.

Reasons ranged from concerns about COVID-19, to limited access to health care facilities, to gaps in health coverage.

But what are the implications of delaying care? We’re taking a closer look at what they are, how they’ll affect you and ways you can get ready for what’s ahead.

Bigger demand and limited access

First, one main result of delaying care is appointments are now in high demand. With more people trying to fulfill their health care needs, you can expect to see longer wait times than in the past.

Plus, since hospitals, surgery centers, and other facilities are still very busy, they’ll likely be prioritizing more urgent cases over routine or preventive care visits. All of this can have a big impact on member access to care.

If you’re managing health benefits for your employees, you should prepare for a spike in utilization rates. Increases in members using their benefits will likely keep climbing for the rest of the year.

More health risks

Another major impact of delaying care is how it affects overall health. For instance, missing certain screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, makes it difficult to catch issues early on. Without early detection, more challenging—and costly—interventions are typically needed later.

So, putting off or skipping care can be risky for your health. What could it mean for you? Delaying a cancer screening might mean catching cancer at a later stage. Or prediabetes could worsen into diabetes, if not detected. Some health conditions might even need to be managed before you can have a surgery you were planning.

These are things to keep in mind when scheduling future care visits, which could include:

    • Preventive visits.
    • Lab or diagnostic testing.
    • Elective surgeries, like knee, hip, sinus or other.
    • Necessary procedures, like a colonoscopy or mammogram.
    • Cancer screenings.
Climbing costs

Another thing that may change due to delaying care is how much everything will cost.

If you’re scheduling visits or surgeries this year, costs are expected to be higher than in recent years. Some of this is due to inflation, and some may also be linked to diminished underlying health, as discussed above. When things aren’t caught early, you might need more treatments, medications and visits to get back on track.

For employers, medical costs are predicted to go up about 6.5 percent in 20222. Combined with higher utilization rates, this could add up to bigger expenses for months to come. Further, surgery volumes—a big cost driver—are expected to climb five percent into 2023, compared to pre-pandemic levels3.

How you can prepare

As a health care consumer, it’s important to be mindful of which visits you may have skipped and return to a regular preventive schedule as soon as possible. You can also use any resources your employer might provide to make finding health care appointments easier, like telehealth, mobile apps or virtual health coaching.

Likewise, for employers and plan sponsors, monitoring data and spending wisely will ensure you’re prepared. In addition, connecting to the right point solutions will give you a leg up when it comes to keeping employee populations healthier and your costs trending in the right direction.

Learn more with Meritain Health®

You can stay ahead of what’s trending in health care, build custom plans and solutions and connect employees to the latest digital tools and resources. Contact us to learn more.

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.



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