For Apple, the lowest-hanging fruit would be to make it easier for health care providers, including doctors, to get paid on time. And simultaneously, to help patients see and pay their bills so they can avoid a hit to their credit score.
Consumer Reports has found that nearly 3 in 10 insured Americans had an unpaid medical debt sent to a collections agency, which impacted their credit. Of those, 24 percent didn’t realize the bill was owed and 13 percent said they’d never received the bill in the first place.
There are many reasons why medical billing goes awry. Some medical bills don’t clearly define what the prices are for, which is confusing, or the patient doesn’t realize they were supposed to pay an additional bill so they don’t look for one. At times, bills are sent to the wrong home address. Or, they’re higher than the patient expected and they don’t have an option to pay them off over time.
If Apple Pay were featured on iPads in every doctor’s office and hospital, suggests Otto, consumers could pay their fee or a co-payment up front, which would solve part of the problem for the consumers that are able to pay. Already, Cedar’s data is showing that some 5 percent of patients use Apple Pay, which represents about 10 percent of all mobile payments.
To increase that usage, Otto said, Apple would need to integrate with health providers. That might be possible for the company, as it already has a huge team of salespeople working on bringing iPads into every hospital.
“In general, we’ve found that human beings want to pay their medical bill if they can afford it and the process is transparent,” Otto said. “Very few people run out of a Starbucks without paying for their latte.”
Yet, he noted, only about 40% of the amount that medical providers bill ever gets paid today.