Medical Debt Affects 1 in 3 Americans

Posted by Dave Tomar on August 18, 2014

Medical Debt Affects 1 in 3 Americans

You hear a lot about the strain that medical debt places on Americans.  And you yourself may have experienced this strain.  In fact, it’s so much more common than you probably realize.  According to joint findings from researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, a staggering 1 in 3 Americans struggle with overwhelming medical debt.

The problem is often compounded for older Americans, who deal with a wider spectrum of health concerns and a fixed income.  But the research is compelling because it suggests that Americans from every walk of life face this challenge.  It also demonstrates that crushing medical expenses constitute their own public health issue. 

It’s Not Just You

With the skyrocketing cost of medical expenses such as prescription medications, specialist appointments and even primary doctor visits, more and more Americans are struggling to pay their bills.  The study says that it isn’t just the uninsured who are experiencing the strain.  In fact, medical debt has the unique potential to swell out of proportion for patients of all income ranges and coverage situations. 

This means that you don’t have to be embarrassed and you don’t have to feel isolated.  There are people you can talk to who will understand what you’re going through and who may be able to help.   According to Your West Valley.com, This starts with your physician, who may be able to offer you alternative care options, provide you with contacts for support agencies or simply provide you some flexibility in paying your bills.  Find out up-front what your procedures, prescriptions and appointments will cost and don’t be afraid to tell your doctor about your financial concerns.  Whether you have insurance or you don’t, there may be options to alleviate the stress of your medical expenses.

Tips for Managing and Avoiding Medical Debt

Kaiser Health News offers a few tips that can help you to avoid overwhelming medical debt.  Particularly, be sure that you are being billed correctly.  According to research by the Commonwealth Fund, nearly 9 million Americans were contacted by a collection agency in 2010 because of billing errors.  Be vigilant or find somebody trustworthy to help. 

The same vigilance is necessary when it comes to insurance coverage.  Be familiar with your Explanation of Benefits (EOB), which should not only help you to understand what is and what isn’t covered, but should also help you to determine if you have the right insurance for your needs.  If you don’t have insurance and you’re afraid you won’t be able to handle medical bills, your doctor or your state’s office of Consumer Affairs may be able to connect you with services that can help. 

You also shouldn’t be afraid to talk to friends or family members who may have a strong grasp on insurance language and medical billing.  It’s not always easy to understand your coverage options and responsibilities.  Itemized medical billing can also be dense and complicated.  This is especially the case when you are battling health problems.  Find somebody in your personal circle who can help you navigate your coverage, manage your bills and find support if needed. 

A final tip and an important one:  Don’t avoid medical treatment because you are concerned about expenses.  Just be prepared to discuss your situation openly, to ask questions and to seek advice.  There are always options and though medical debt can be stressful, your health comes first! 


TAGS: medical debt