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Half of Americans are worried about medical debt

October 30, 2020

Topics: Quote of the Day

By Dan Grunebaum
HealthCareInsider, October 29, 2020

Concerns About Healthcare and Debt

  • 56% of U.S. adults said they were either somewhat or very concerned that a health situation in their household could lead to bankruptcy or debt.

Medical Debt

  • Nearly three in ten (28%) respondents to the poll said they carry medical debt.
  • Of those who reported having medical debt, 65% had debts exceeding $1,000.
  • Surprise medical bills can be a source of medical debt.
  • Three in ten respondents (28%) reported having received a surprise medical bill in the past year (since October 2019).

Lack of Savings

  • Only just over half (57%) of U.S. adults contacted for the survey said they have savings to pay medical bills.
  • 21% said they have no savings. 29% had $3,000 or less (excluding none), and 28% more than $3,000.
  • Among all respondents, 32% had $500 or less in savings; 21% had no savings at all, while 11% had $1 to $500 on hand.

Cost Top Reason to Skip Healthcare

  • Just under half of U.S. adults (46%) postponed healthcare services in the past year.
  • Of those who did, over three in ten (32%) respondents said they didn’t seek healthcare services because they couldn’t afford it.
  • Of respondents who reported no health insurance (13% overall), more than half (53%) said they could not afford it.

Low Comprehension of ACA Subsidies

  • Despite some U.S. adults saying they lack health insurance due to cost, many are unaware they could qualify for financial help.
  • Over half (52%) of respondents didn’t know whether you can receive an Affordable Care Act subsidy (a tax credit) to help pay for health insurance if you aren’t eligible for Medicare.

Politics and Healthcare

  • Over four in ten (44%) pollees said they trust the Democratic Party most to ensure they and their family can obtain affordable healthcare.
  • 28% trusted the Republican Party most. 12% said they trusted independents most to ensure they and their family can obtain affordable healthcare, and 13% were undecided.

HealthCareInsider.com commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct the survey. YouGov PLC is a research company using online panels to provide research for public policy, market research, and stakeholder consultation.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Of all wealthy nations, the United States is in first place in exposing patients to financial hardship. How long are we going to continue to look at numbers like these?

What are we doing about it? We have an election next week in which one candidate has promised us undefined “beautiful” health care while wreaking havoc on the system we do have, including asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, and the other candidate promises to patch the Affordable Care Act with measures that will leave our highly dysfunctional financing infrastructure in place, perpetuating most of the financial hardships that patients are exposed to today (the majority of people with medical debt are insured through our flawed system).

We know what the solution is. If we enacted and implemented a well designed, single payer improved Medicare for All, we would redirect the profound waste in our system to fill the voids in health care while establishing an equitable, progressively-funded risk pool that would make health care affordable for each of us, finally ending our unique scourge of financial hardship due to medical bills. If we did this, we would not be spending any more than we already are, but we would no longer have to pretend that we have the finest health care system in the world because it would finally become a reality. What’s wrong with the best, if you can actually have it?

Stay informed! Visit www.pnhp.org/qotd to sign up for daily email updates.

About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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