Don’t Forget Gen X in Crafting Your Healthcare Payment Strategy

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By Sue Czubala

“Don’t you forget about me,” the lead singer of Simple Minds, Jim Kerr, croons in a 1984 pop classic that could be an anthem for Generation X, often dubbed “the forgotten generation.” But failing to craft a healthcare payment and affordability strategy with Gen Xers in mind would be a major mistake in healthcare.

That’s because Gen Xers— sandwiched between baby boomers and millennials and far outnumbered by both—often are managing care for themselves, their families, and their aging parents. They are also the most likely of any generation to put off care when they aren’t sure how they’ll manage the expense.

A recent survey of 1,000 consumers, with insights broken down by generation, shows:

  • Sixty-nine percent of Gen Xers say providers’ willingness to share price information prior to the point of service is a critical factor in determining where to seek care.
  • Half of households with children—primarily Gen Xers and millennials—say they would switch providers to access affordable payment arrangements to cover their costs of care—including half of households with children.
  • Forty-five percent of Gen Xers have shopped around for care based on price.

Given the importance Gen Xers place on affordability of care, transparency and price, how can healthcare providers craft payment strategies that appeal to this generation? Here are four approaches to consider. 

Share costs of care prior to the point of care. Gen Xers—those born between 1965 and 1980—highly value price transparency: 69 percent want their healthcare provider to share costs of care before treatment. Gen Xers also are 50 percent more likely than millennials and twice as likely as baby boomers to delay care when they aren’t sure how they will manage the expense. Survey results also indicate the point at which price becomes a concern for Generation X in seeking healthcare: 45 percent of Gen Xers are concerned about their ability to pay for an unexpected medical expense under $500.

Gaining and retaining business from Generation X patients—and, therefore, from the children and parents for whom they manage care—depends on providers’ willingness to be open about healthcare costs. Make it easy for Gen Xers to obtain cost information by listing prices for common procedures or providing cost estimation calculators on your organization’s website, and share the patient’s anticipated out-of-pocket costs prior to the point of service. Leading organizations provide this information with consumers in their preferred communication format, whether by phone call, text (with a link to a secure portal), email or postal mail.

Engage Gen Xers in patient financial conversations early in the encounter. Survey results show 81 percent of Gen Xers believe the ability to discuss their ability to pay for their care with their provider is very important, compared with 75 percent of millennials and 71 percent of baby boomers. Providers can alleviate the stress of healthcare expenses not only by being prepared to engage in cost-of-care conversations, but also by initiating these conversations before patients reach the exam room. Initiate patient financial discussions at the point of scheduling or registration. Make cost information meaningful by sharing the patient’s anticipated out-of-pocket costs, taking into account the amount of the patient’s deductible met to date. Explore whether patients are concerned about how they will manage their out-of-pocket costs and assess whether a payment plan is needed.

Offer flexible options for payment. Gen Xers crave multiple options for healthcare payment. Sixty-one percent desire flexibility in healthcare payment according to their needs, and 43 percent are likely to switch providers for the ability to access low-interest or no-interest payment plans. They are also more likely to want to discuss financing and payment plans with their providers than any other generation (81 percent). 

When it comes to healthcare payment plans, it’s important to recognize that one size does not fit all. Offering a variety of payment plans, from low-interest to no-interest, enables Gen Xers with a greater chance to pay in full, no matter their financial circumstance. One best practice: Give patients the flexibility to adjust payment arrangements if the amount of their monthly payment becomes too much for them to handle comfortably. 

Provide self-service options for account management and payment. This approach helps tech-savvy Gen Xers by providing them with the opportunity to self-manage their account. Consider offering self-service options through a patient portal and look for ways to allow Gen Xers to self-enroll in payment plans prior to service. Doing so empowers Gen Xers by enabling them to direct their patient financial experience— the first and last encounter Gen Xers will have with your organization.

Appealing to a Gen X Mindset for Payment

There are jokes about Gen X being the forgotten generation, but given that three-quarters of Gen Xers consider themselves the primary health decision makers for their parents and children, those that don’t consider Gen X when crafting healthcare payment strategies risk lost loyalty and revenue. Taking steps to provide the level of price transparency and affordability Gen Xers desire will leave a better impression with this key generational segment, strengthening loyalty and providers’ bottom line.

Sue is chief client success officer for AccessOne. In her thirty years of healthcare revenue cycle experience, Sue has transformed many mid-to large sized physician practices and healthcare organizations into models of efficiency. Her experience is in the academic and private practice environment as well as skilled nursing facility revenue cycle operations and several years at a large consulting firm.

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