Americans Just Borrowed $88 Billion to Pay Medical Bills

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By Karen Zraick, April 2, 2019

| The New York Times – Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion over the last year to pay for health care, according to a survey released on Tuesday by Gallup and the nonprofit West Health.

The survey also found that one in four Americans have skipped treatment because of the cost, and that nearly half fear bankruptcy in the event of a health emergency …

Respondents from across the political spectrum also reported pessimism about their leaders’ abilities to reduce health care costs.

About 70 percent of respondents said they had no confidence in their elected officials to bring prices down. And 77 percent said they were concerned that rising health care costs would damage the American economy.

“Our data shows an American public that’s beaten down from this really serious issue,” said Dan Witters, a senior researcher at Gallup.

At the same time, 64 percent of respondents said they were mostly satisfied with their experiences in the health care system. When asked if they were satisfied with how well the system was serving Americans generally, only 39 percent said they were.

The survey’s authors noted that Americans’ feelings were complicated and at times conflicted. But one thing was clear: High health care costs had created significant anxiety.

Even among households earning $180,000 or more a year, a third of respondents said they were concerned about the specter of personal bankruptcy because of a health crisis. (There has been fierce debate among researchers about the extent to which health care costs can be blamed for bankruptcies.)

Many American families earning less than that, of course, feel the effects of high health care costs acutely.

They are forced to cut back on other expenses to pay for health care, or skip appointments and prescription refills, creating health risks down the road. Read more. 

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