10 statistics and findings on medical debt

As patients take on more responsibility for their healthcare costs, many experience problems paying their medical bills. This has serious repercussions on their daily lives, including postponing care, and can lead to mounting medical debt.

Here are 10 statistics and findings on medical debt.

1. One in five working-age Americans with insurance encountered problems paying medical bills in the past year, which often led to serious financial challenges and changes in employment and lifestyle, according to a comprehensive Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey. Among the uninsured, 53 percent reported problems paying medical bills.

2. Among those facing problems paying medical bills, almost identical shares of the insured (44 percent) and uninsured (45 percent) said the bills had a major impact on their families.

3. Of insured individuals who reported problems paying medical bills, 26 percent received unexpected claim denials; and 32 percent received care from an out-of-network provider their insurance wouldn't cover.

4. Among those with private insurance, those enrolled in higher deductible plans were more likely to report medical bill problems than those in plans with lower deductibles (26 percent compared to 15 percent).

5. Among the insured and uninsured with medical bill problems, 31 percent said the total amount of the bills they had problems paying reached at least $5,000, including 13 percent who say the total hit at least $10,000. One in four (24 percent) said their bills totaled less than $1,000.

6. Thirty-one percent of insured Americans took money out of retirement, college or other long-term savings accounts to pay medical bills in the past year; 17 percent of uninsured reported the same. An additional 17 percent of insured and 11 percent of uninsured patients took out another type of loan to pay medical bills.

7. Although more than 90 percent of patients reported satisfaction with their primary care physician across several categories in a survey commissioned by the Physicians Foundation, many communicated concern regarding healthcare costs and medical debt.

8. According to the survey, 62 percent of participants reported concern regarding their ability to pay for medical care if they were to fall ill or become injured. More than a quarter — 28 percent — reported skipping a medical test, missing a follow-up appointment or not seeking treatment for a medical problem in the last year due to insecurities regarding the cost of care.

9. Medical debt is sold very cheap because it is difficult to collect on. Craig Antico, co-founder of RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit based in Rye, N.Y., told STAT a dollar of debt can be bought for less than a cent. "It only takes $14.45 million to abolish $1 billion in debt," he said.

10. Men and women in the armed forces are nearly twice as likely to file complaints about debt collection than the general population, according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Of the roughly 19,200 complaints from servicemembers the CFPB received last year, about 8,900 were related to debt collection. In 2015, medical debt concerns comprised 13 percent of servicemember debt collection complaints, with a majority of the medical debt complaints coming from the veteran population.


More articles on healthcare finance:

Moody's: US for-profit hospital outlook stable as outpatient volumes offset costs, bad debt
UPMC gets financial boost from insurance division
AHA: Proposal to reduce Medicare appeals backlog won't solve problem

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