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Out-of-pocket costs jump 11 percent

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Paying health care bills is only getting more difficult for consumers: Out-of-pocket costs for patients rose 11 percent in 2014, according to new data.

The report by TransUnion Healthcare said that out-of-pocket costs jumped to an average $2,491 per patient in 2014, up from $2,245 the year before, mostly because of skyrocketing costs in joint-replacement procedures for areas such as the knee and hip. Costs for those procedures surged by nearly 20 percent, it said.

“Our latest report demonstrates that consumers continue to feel the pressure of rising health care costs,” said Gerry McCarthy, president of TransUnion Healthcare, a subsidiary of the large credit report company. “Despite a slowly improving economy, many consumers are finding they have less money to make these payments. This issue is not just about patients, though, as thousands of health care administrators across the country face the challenge of providing quality care while also seeking fair compensation.”

Meanwhile, patient deductible costs rose nearly 7 percent in the last year from $1,062 in Q4 2013 to $1,133 in Q4 2014.

“This increase occurred prior to the government reporting that 16.4 million people now have secured health care coverage during the most recent open enrollment period of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” TransUnion said.

Compounding the problem, the report found, is that the amount of revolving credit that people can tap to help pay increasing health care costs decreased. For every $100 in health care costs, consumers had $1,350 in revolving credit to potentially make those payments in the last quarter of 2014, Transunion said. For the same quarter in 2013, consumers had $1,520 in revolving credit for every $100 in health care costs.

Transunion said the report included anonymous data estimates for patient payment responsibilities from thousands of providers, including health care clinics from across the nation.

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