The Impact of COVID-19 on Patient Affordability


  • COVID-19 will likely make affording care more difficult for patients.
  • Market observations include an increase in the number of uninsured or underinsured patients, tight consumer finances, and more risk averse lenders.
  • Prioritizing affordability in your purchase process will help improve financial performance.

While the long term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unclear, data over the past few months indicate that patients will struggle to afford care in the short term.

The uninsured population is lower than in the past, but a large portion of the population
will still face significant out-of-pocket expenses

The passage of the Affordable Care Act led to a significant decline in the number of uninsured in America: just 10% of non-elderly Americans were without insurance in 2017 versus 17% in 2009. This is good news compared to past recessions, where stories of insurance’s effect on care were commonplace.

However, after hitting a low in 2016, the uninsured population has slowly been increasing and about 30 million Americans still lack insurance. Moreover, enrollment high deductible health plans (HDHPs) has tripled in the last ten years, and many people with HDHPs have little to no money in their HSA. This places a substantial proportion of the population at risk of facing a sudden, large medical bill.


Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Health Interview Survey

COVID-19 has had a major impact on consumer credit,
leaving patients exposed to large medical expenses

While the clinical effects of COVID-19 are skewed towards older populations, the economic impact of COVID-19 has been felt across a much broader segment of the population. Unemployment in April was 14.7% and job losses have spread across Americans of all ages.

Figure 2: Unemployment rate by Age

Mar 2020 Apr 2020
20-24 years 8.7% 25.7%
25-34 years 4.1% 14.5%
35-44 years 3.4% 11.5%
45-54 years 3.2% 12.3%
55+ years 3.3% 13.6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Not surprisingly, these job losses have had an impact on consumer credit. Credit Card debt is growing, with 47% of Americans now carrying some credit card debt. Financial institutions are responding to what they see as an increased risk of bad debt, halting interest free balance transfers and pulling personal loans.

It’s not like consumers were in a great place to start with. In 2018 (when unemployment was under 4%) a Federal Reserve survey found that 40% of Americans could not afford a $400 emergency medical expense.

Increasing affordability for your patients

In the current environment, it is imperative for caregivers of all kinds to make sure that they are doing everything they can to increase the affordability of care for their patient base. While the out-of-pocket expense for a patient is often fixed, there are two other things a provider can do:


Give patients multiple payment options. It’s helpful to provide a patient with payment options for their purchase, including upfront payments, installment plans, and revolving and non-revolving financial instruments. The impact of a good payment stack is substantial: one FeatherPay client saw a 17% increase in their revenue when they added a financing solution to the payment mix.


Give patients flexibility in payments. While individual payment options are helpful, it’s not uncommon for financially challenged patients to find that any one method is insufficient for them to pay for their care. In these cases, the ability to mix and match payment options (e.g., a credit card down payment plus financing) can help improve affordability. For large expenses, it’s not uncommon for multiple payment methods to account for 10% or more of a caregiver’s transactions.

How Feather Pay can help you

Feather Pay is an advanced payment technology that helps maximize patient affordability while minimizing the financial risk for a merchant. Our software allows merchants to provide multiple payment options to consumers and gives consumers the flexibility to mix and match payment options to find the solution that is best for them. Feather Pay gives merchants access to best-in-class payment options in a single integration.

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