Americans are grappling with insufficient healthcare coverage, resulting in postponed or foregone healthcare, substantial medical debts and declining health conditions, according to a recent survey by The Commonwealth Fund (CWF).
Having health insurance does not guarantee affordable access to care, according to CWF's Health Care Affordability Survey of 7,873 adults. Individuals across various insurance sources — employer, marketplace, individual-market plans, Medicaid and Medicare — reported difficulties affording care, as shown in the study, which was conducted from April 18 to July 31.
While more than half (51%) of working-aged adults reported difficulties keeping up with healthcare costs, over one-third (38%) added that they had delayed or skipped needed healthcare or a prescription drug in the past year because they could not afford it. In addition, more than half (57%) of working-aged adults said that health problems got worse as a result of the delayed or skipped care.
The issue of rising healthcare costs and medical debt has been gaining the attention of state and federal governments in recent years especially. On the federal level, several agencies and members of Congress are studying the problem.
In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. Treasury and the Health and Human Services Department teamed up for a study of whether healthcare providers are promoting financial products, such as medical credit cards and loans, that raise debt and lead to higher consumer costs. In September, the CFPB launched a rulemaking process to remove medical bills from credit reports.
In the CWF survey, respondents who struggled to afford but did not delay or skip needed healthcare or prescription drugs and those that sought out care once their conditions worsened, said they were saddled with medical debt. Some 32% of working-age adults reported having medical or dental debt that they were paying off over time, and 36% said the debt caused them or a family member to delay or avoid getting needed healthcare.
More than half (57%) of working-age adults surveyed reported that 10% or more of their monthly budget went toward healthcare with more than one-third (38%) saying healthcare costs made it harder for them to afford other living expenses, including food, housing and utilities.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of working-aged adults said that price inflation in the economy affected their ability to afford healthcare, with 5% deciding to drop their insurance because of the cost and an additional 16% considering dropping their insurance.
The CWF's Controlling Health Care Costs website provides a range of articles and information on the healthcare and medical debt issues.
The CFPB said it continues to receive complaints from the public about illegal debt collection and credit reporting practices related to medical billing. The agency encourages people to submit complaints about financial products or services at its website or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration.
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