Traumatic Injuries Put Patients into Deeper Financial Hole: Report

Medical debt may be keeping people who suffer traumatic injuries from truly recovering and getting all the help they need, according to the author of a recently released report that sought to uncover the financial outcomes of insured individuals who suffer serious injuries.

Individuals who suffer traumatic injuries were 23% more likely to have a medical debt in collections, 70% more debt in collections, and were 110% more likely to file bankruptcy than those who did not suffer serious injuries. Overall, those who suffer traumatic injuries owe $6,000 more than what their insurance covers.

High-deductible health insurance plans may be one of the problems for individuals. Traumatic injuries tend to be much more expensive than run-of-the-mill situations and will eat up all of an individual’s deductible quicker, leaving the individual responsible for making up that entire amount all in one shot. One of the suggestions from the report’s author was to eliminate deductibles in traumatic injury situations, or assess deductibles based on the patient’s ability to repay it.

With traumatic injuries, the care doesn’t stop when the patient leaves the hospital. Physical therapy and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety are common, and patients may be forgoing those treatments because they can’t afford them, said Dr. John Scott, the report’s lead researcher.

“My worry about people that can’t pay is they’re not going to go get more medical care,” Scott said in a published report. “If we want people to really get their lives back after injury, if they have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] or depression or anxiety after their car crash or after they were a victim of a shooting or a stabbing, those are the patients who are not getting the mental healthcare they need, because they already have so much medical debt that they can’t afford it. Or maybe they’re not getting the physical therapy they need, because they already have so much medical debt, they can’t afford it.”

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