Despite the fact that more Americans now have health insurance, many are still experiencing financial stress due to medical debt. A survey by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that about a fifth of all working Americans who have health insurance reported difficulty in paying their medical bills within the last year. The number is even higher for those who do not have insurance; over half have suffered financial hardship due to health care costs.
The survey provided additional statistics that gave better insight into the cause of this medical debt. Twenty-six percent of insured patients reported that their medical debt came from claims that were denied unexpectedly. A further 32% reported that their debt was a result of visiting providers that were deemed to be out-of-network and so not covered by their insurance.
The cost to many patients was substantial. Of all survey respondents, 31% reported medical bills of more than $5,000 in the past year, while 13% said their unexpected medical costs reached $10,000. Only about a fourth of all participants reported having $1,000 or less in health care costs.
To cover these costs, 31% of patients with insurance and 17% of patients without insurance reached into college or retirement funds or depleted their savings. In addition, many of those with insurance (17%) and those without (11%) also had to rely on other funds to cover their bills.
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