Patients pay more for MRIs and other brain examinations

Illustration for the article titled Patients pay more out of pocket for MRIs and other brain examinations

Photo: Campus Clinic Gynecology at Ruhr-University Bochum / Arne Jensen (AP)

Health care costs in the United States are rising most everywhere, and a new study on Wednesday suggests that people seeking care for neurological problems are no exception. The study showed that people with private insurance are increasingly paying out of pocket for services like MRI, and that these costs have increased over the course of 15 years years.

The study, published Wednesday in Neurology, looked at data from more than 3 million patients enrolled in a single private health plan. They looked at health services related to neurology, such as evaluation or management visits to doctors, electromyograms (used to test the connection between our muscles and nerve cells), as well as MRIs and other brain imaging studies. The investigation period ranged from 2001 to 2016.

Across the board, these services took more of an economic toll for patients over time, they found. In 2001, about 30% of patients had to pay their pocket for an electromyogram, but it rose to just over 50% in 2016. The same pattern was even worse for MRIs, where approx. 24% of patients had to pay for them in 2001 but almost 70% did the same in 2016. The percentage of people who paid out of pocket for doctor visits remained more level, but high over the years, with approx. 95% paid for them in 2016, up from 86.5% in 2001.

Patients also pay more in advance for these examinations and tests over time, even though the actual costs fluctuate wildly. The median cost of an MRI test alone in 2016, for example, was $ 103, but the cost can go up to $ 875 for those over the 95th percentile of patients in the new study. People who are enrolled in high deductible health plans often also pay even more than others.

As the authors note, many Americans are bound for cash as they are. They highlight research suggesting that about 30% of the population would have difficulty paying $ 400 in emergency expenses in addition to their regular bills. Other things research have shown that more than 50% of Americans are financially burdened or worried about high medical expenses.

“In this setting, neurological evaluation can result in financial difficulties for patients,” wrote the authors.

Researchers point out that these rising health costs will only make it more likely that people will choose to forgo seeing a neurologist when necessary, or avoid getting tests that diagnose urgent neurological problems – something that is already happening for medical treatment in general. . A study published in May found ca. 22% of Americans had jumped out on medical care due to costs last year, while a further 15% said someone in their family had done so.

Despite these trends, health care and insurance costs are expected to continue to rise, although this is not the case. still ready how much impact the covid-19 pandemic will have on these increases. The authors offer some recommendations that will make it easier to navigate these costs, such as making out-of-pocket costs transparent to patients and physicians in advance. But nothing less than drastic action on the part of legislators will significantly lower the burden that people will have to bear.

“Costs have risen to the point where systematic changes are needed,” James C. Stevens, president of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a statement released Wednesday in response to survey results. “These changes may include legislative measures to cap out-of-pocket costs. The American Academy of Neurology advocates for such out-of-pocket drug costs in Washington, DC. ”