Down Debt

Americans are really struggling with medical debt

Remember that show about a teacher who became a meth kingpin to cover his medical bills? New Zealander Walter White wouldn’t have done that.

But in the United States, 41% of American adults have medical debt, according to a study by Kaiser Health News and NPR.

Some may not have appeared in previous surveys or estimates because of how people handle them – for example, 17% of people mix their debts with credit cards, while 21% pay over time. time directly to a supplier.

How many debts are we talking about?

The survey found that 42% owe between $1,000 and $5,000, while 24% owe more.

What that looks like depends on each debtor’s situation, and those who are low-income, uninsured, black, Hispanic, female, or parents are often the hardest hit.

Eighteen percent of debtors fear they will never pay it back. And debt has branching effects:

  • 48% of debtors say they have exhausted their savings to pay off their debts, and many are placing bills on credit cards, which are accumulating interest
  • 1 of 7 debtors say they were denied needed care due to unpaid bills
  • People with medical debt are 2x as likely to skip care
  • Many debtors have delayed college and home ownership, or had trouble buying a car or renting an apartment

What can be done to treat it?

Medical costs can often be shockingly high, even for the insured.

  • In 2020, a woman went to an in-network center for surgery but was surprised with a $2,000 bill because the anesthesiologist was not in-network.

The No Surprises Act aims to prevent this, by prohibiting out-of-network billing for emergency care, supplementary care (eg, anesthesiology, radiology), and out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities.

New transparency laws also require hospitals to post prices for 300 common services. However, in February, only ~14% were compliant, compared to CNBC.

And the core problem remains: people can’t afford treatment because medical costs and deductibles have continued to rise.

BESIDES: consumer reports has some tips for avoiding high medical bills and managing them if they occur.

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