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Healthcare Affordability Called a ‘Silent’ Crisis Facing Americans

Twenty-seven percent of respondents to a survey said they or a family member have had problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months, according to a report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which partnered with the Los Angeles Times.

Overall, 40% of the survey’s respondents reported an affordability problem with their health insurance or medical bills, including co-pays for doctor’s visits or prescription drugs, unexpected medical bills, or paying their health insurance premiums.

Covering medical bills before meeting their deductible and handling surprise medical bills were the two most common issues that individuals reported when discussing affordability issues.

Among that 40%, half reported using credit cards or most of their savings to pay for healthcare. Two-thirds of that 40% indicated they had put off vacations or cut back on spending for food, clothing, or other basic household items.

Nineteen percent of the respondents said they or someone in their family had been contacted by a collection agency for an unpaid medical debt in the past 12 months, and unpaid healthcare debts have led 9% of respondents to declare bankruptcy.

Two-thirds of individuals in the highest deductible brackets (at least $3,000 per year for a family), would not be able to pay a medical bill that was equal to the amount of their deductible without going into debt.

When asked how they would pay an unexpected medical bill equal to the amount of their deductible, one-third of those in plans with high deductibles say they would either pay the bill at the time of service or put it on a credit card and pay it off at their next statement. About half say they would go into some type of debt to pay the bill, either by putting it on a credit card and paying it off over time (27 percent), setting up a payment plan with the provider (17 percent), or borrowing money from a bank, payday lender, or friends and family (5 percent). One in six (16 percent) say they would not be able to pay such a bill at all.

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