Tags: debt | medical | expenses | healthcare | bills

New Report: Medical Debt More Widespread Than Previously Thought

a medical bill from hospital that says "final notice", open empty wallet with change on table
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 27 July 2022 01:02 PM EDT

Jeni Rae Peters was already stressed after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy to treat her Stage 2 breast cancer, but $30,000 in medical bills worsened her predicament.

After Allyson Ward’s birth to premature twins left her $80,000 in debt, she borrowed from relatives, worked extra shifts, and delayed paying back student loans.  

These are just two of the millions of stories, as over 100 million Americans, or 41% of adults, now deal with higher medical debt than ever before, a recent Kaiser Health Network-NPR investigation found. The number is significantly higher than a previous estimate of 23 million Americans who hold medical debt.

Medical Debt Impacts a Growing Number of Americans

The investigation revealed an even more sobering landscape than expected, due to the debts that patients accumulate alternatively coming from loans from family and on credit card balances, alongside the traditional methods of payment. Nearly 25% of Americans have medical debt that they are unable to pay or is past due, 10% are in debt to a family member or friend, and nearly one in five adults with medical debt responded they will never be able to pay it off, a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation report found. 

One key reason why medical debt is so pervasive nationwide is because half of Americans cannot afford an unexpected $500 healthcare bill, a statistic that correlates with a February finding that a similar number cannot handle a $500 emergency expense.

Dr. Rishi Manchanda, who serves on the board of the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, says “Debt is no longer just a bug in our system. It is one of the main products. We have a health care system almost perfectly designed to create debt.”

Affects All Incomes and Regions

The poll found those with lower levels of education and income were more likely to have higher medical debt, as 57% of Americans with household incomes under $40,000 report having medical debt. Higher incomes are not immune from the problem either, as just over a quarter of those earning over $90,000 report having debt. Additionally, the poll found 24% of all adults hold medical debt of $5,000 or more.

Men carry less medical debt than women, with 34% of men reporting they hold medical debt compared to 48% of women. And the rise in medical debt spares no region nationwide. Nearly half of adults in the South, alongside 41% of adults in the Midwest, 35% of adults in the West and 35% of adults in the Northeast, have medical debt. The percentages of people with medical debt stand at over 20% in the counties of Dallas, Bexar and Tarrant in Texas, while a respective 17.6% and 15.6% carry medical debt in Clark County, NV and Maricopa County, AZ, the counties home to Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Forced to Make Tough Choices   

Medical debt has forced Americans to make tough choices to pay off outstanding balances. The Kaiser poll found 63% of indebted adults have been forced to cut back on spending for the essentials, and nearly half, 48%, of indebted adults have been forced to use up all or most of their savings. Additionally, 28% of indebted adults have had to delay education or buying a home, and 17% of indebted adults have been forced to declare bankruptcy due to medical debt.

Perhaps most shocking of all, the Kaiser poll found that one in seven people with medical debt have been rejected access to medical care at a doctor’s office or hospital because of their outstanding debt.  

‘No Easy Solutions’

With medical debt worsening in the United States, Dr. Kuljit Kapur, chief medical officer at Transitions Care, says the problem does not come with easy fixes. Kapur tells Newsmax, “Medical debt is difficult to calculate given its hidden nature, but is pervasive, disproportionately affecting low income and minority populations. Subsequently, patients are more likely to delay or skip medical care in hopes of avoiding debt accumulation. While there is no easy solution, access to health services that are equitable, preventative, and federally supported for those with low income, is a starting point. Certainly, a system to direct medical care into the home should be prioritized to decrease the burden to the patient and payors.”

© 2024 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.


Health-News
Jeni Rae Peters was already stressed after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy to treat her Stage 2 breast cancer, but $30,000 in medical bills worsened her predicament. After Allyson Ward's birth to premature twins left her $80,000 in debt, she borrowed from relatives,...
debt, medical, expenses, healthcare, bills
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2022-02-27
Wednesday, 27 July 2022 01:02 PM
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