Healthcare consumers are in a “state of denial,” according to research conducted for Alegeus, the consumer health benefits company. Overall, 3 in 4 consumers feel fear when it comes to their healthcare finances: most people worry about being hit with unexpected healthcare costs they can’t afford, and nearly half fear they won’t be able to afford their family’s healthcare needs.

The wordle illustrates consumers’ mixed feelings about healthcare: while people feel frustrated, overwhelmed, powerless, confused and skeptical about healthcare in America, there are some emerging adjectives hinting at growing consumer health muscle-building: optimistic, hopeful, supported, engaged, accountable.

Still, denial and fear translate into consumers’ ability to manage their healthcare:

  • 66% of consumers say planning for out-of-pocket costs is the most challenging and stressful part of managing healthcare
  • 50% of consumers don’t know how to predict out-of-pocket costs
  • 23% don’t save beyond the current health plan year, and most people under-fund savings for future healthcare spending.

The vast majority of consumers do want to understand and engage in healthcare management. One-half of people say they’d take advantage of information and tools to learn more and self-management, would do more diligence before making healthcare purchase choices, and would have more money for longer term healthcare costs.

Given peoples’ desire for self-management, combined with their lack of self-confidence in self-managing healthcare costs, who would consumers trust to help them get smarter about healthcare financial management? It’s doctors and friends and peers first. Employers, insurers, and benefits suppliers follow well behind physicians, family and friends.

Interviews for this study were conducted among 1,000 healthcare consumers online in December 2016.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: 3 in 4 patients believe receiving cost estimates up-front would positive impact their view of a healthcare provider, based on a TransUnion survey published in December 2016. This result significantly rose since TransUnion’s consumer poll published in 2015 where 57% of consumers sought healthcare cost estimates in advance of a visit or procedure.

Over one-half of U.S. consumers feels financially stressed with healthcare insurance costs adding further financial pressure to household budgets, shown in the second graphic from the TransUnion report. In addition, 2 in 3 consumers are concerned about out-of-pocket costs for co-payments and deductibles. Here’s my take on TransUnion’s survey from mid-2016.

As of this writing, President Trump’s plans to “repeal, replace, and/or repair” the Affordable Care Act appear to be slipping into the future — perhaps by one year from now, according to news reports. This adds uncertainty for both healthcare providers and consumers when it comes to healthcare financing, both from an enterprise/institution level and through the household family budget lens.

Pressures will be in full force on people to act as healthcare consumers in a post-Trump/Price healthcare regime.