A recent study found that in 2010 there was around 40% of Americans claiming financial hardship with paying medical bills. In 2005 it was 34%, thus presenting a 6% rise in just 5 years. An easy problem to pick out for increased spending would be the lack of insurance coverage, but Patricia Herman, an economist at the University of Arizona, says that financial ruin caused by an injury or illness may not be prevented by health insurance.
A study was conducted and can be found online in the August issue by the American Journal of Public Health and through the 2008 Arizona Health Survey. Using data from 4,200 Arizona households, the survey shows how families have severe trouble paying medical bills or if they had delayed care due to the expense. Health insurance status and other demographic data were also collected like income, the presence of chronic health conditions and ethnicity.
Even though there is a good 83% or so of the survey participants that had health insurance, almost 27% are struggling to pay their medical bills. Of those surveyed that are covered now but had not been insured in the past year, 43% have reported some issues with paying medical bills. It is about six times more likely that families that report medical debt or inconsistent health insurance coverage would delay getting medical care they need or filling prescriptions.
High out-of-pocket expenses are the usual reason for medical debt in patients with health insurance, good examples of which being dollar limits, coinsurance, and deductibles. Inability to work will cause lost wages which could result in medical debt, increased bankruptcy rates and higher credit card debt.
Many companies have started offering supplemental health insurance policies like cancer insurance, accident and critical illness plans to help fill the gap health insurance leaves – due to the very nature of this type of insurance pays the policy holder and not the doctors.
With tight budgets in place though, most Americans are trying not to add an additional bill, nor do they think they’ll even get sick in the first place. California insurance agent, Loreen Worden, recommends when shopping for supplemental health insurance find one that pays wellness benefits, “Getting paid to get tests like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and others makes these types of plans very affordable.”