The Burden of Medical Debt: Results from the Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey

From the Press Release from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation:

Among people with health insurance, one in five (20%) working-age Americans report having problems paying medical bills in the past year that often cause serious financial challenges and changes in employment and lifestyle, finds a comprehensive new Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey. As expected, the situation is even worse among people who are uninsured: half (53%) face problems with medical bills, bringing the overall total to 26 percent.

While insurance can protect people from problem medical bills, the survey suggests that those with employer coverage or other insurance suffer similar consequences as the uninsured once such problems occur. Among those facing problems with medical bills, almost identical shares of the insured (44%) and uninsured (45%) say the bills had a major impact on their families.

People with insurance who face problem medical bills also report a wide range of consequences and sacrifices during the past year as a result, including delaying vacations or major household purchases (77%), spending less on food, clothing and basic household items (75%), using up most or all their savings (63%), taking an extra job or working more hours (42%), increasing their credit card debt (38%), borrowing money from family or friends (37%), changing their living situation (14%), and seeking the aid of a charity (11%). These shares generally are as large as or larger than the shares among uninsured people with problem medical bills.

Overall, 62 percent of those who had medical bill problems say the bills were incurred by someone who had health coverage at the time (most often through an employer). Of those who were insured when the bills were incurred, three-quarters (75%) say that the amount they had to pay for their insurance copays, deductibles, or coinsurance was more than they could afford.

Read the full Press Release.
Read the survey methodology and key findings.

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