Healthcare Debt Making People Sicker: Survey

The amount of medical debt being carried by many individuals across the country is making them even sicker, according to a survey that was conducted by Consumer Reports. The results are even more dramatic for minorities, according to the survey.

More than 40% of respondents have put off a visit to a doctor’s office to save on their healthcare costs in the past 12 months, while 20% have declined a test or procedure, and 15% did not fill a prescription. Nearly one-third of respondents have treated themselves at home in the past 12 months rather than go see a medical professional.

Those medical bills that are causing individuals to delay getting treatment are not usually expected. Half of the respondents to the survey said they did not know in advance that their largest bill of the year was coming. Deductibles were the largest out-of-pocket expense for individuals who needed to use their own funds to supplement their healthcare insurance — 43% of respondents said their largest expense was paying for a deductible.

Demographically, high amounts of medical debt are more likely to impact African-Americans and Hispanics. Nearly 50% of each group said they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about being able to pay for medical care, compared with 32% of white respondents.

When a billing problem is uncovered, it takes an average of 22 phone calls to resolve it, according to data from the Patient Advocate Foundation.

“The U.S. has reached a tipping point,” says Ida Rademacher, executive director of the Financial Security Program at the Aspen Institute, a research and policy organization, in a published report. “This will continue to add to levels of stress and behaviors like delaying medical care.”

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