Diagnosis of debt: Patients stricken with soaring medical debt
Medical debt is at an all-time high in the United States, affecting about one in four adults under 65. Americans are being hit by a combination of higher health costs, unemployment and cutbacks in employer-provided insurance. To cope, financially strapped patients are turning to payday loans and credit cards to pay off their medical bills. Hospitals, meanwhile, are also squeezed trying to collect millions of dollars in bad debt. Some turn to collection agencies or, in a few cases, sell off patients’ debt on the markets, Wall Street-style. But hospitals’ collection rates aren’t what you might expect. So far, the government isn’t doing much to help. California has regulations in place to help protect some patients from medical debt, but many consider them weak on enforcement. And while the federal health care law could bring some relief, implementation is still a few years away – if the measure survives at all.
Last year about one in four adults under 65 reported having medical debt, an all-time high for the country. That’s because health care costs continue to rise at the same time people are losing their jobs and health coverage.
The Center partnered with KQED Public Radio for this project.
Patients increasingly are failing to pay their hospital bills. So hospitals are left to try and collect millions of dollars in bad debt. The Center partnered with KQED Public Radio on this project.
One of the most promising new approaches to help put the brakes on soaring medical debt is to let patients know in advance of a hospital visit how much their care will cost, and how much they’ll have to personally pay. The unique challenge of medical debt is that patients often don’t even know they’re about to owe the hospital tens of thousands of dollars.
There are steps the government might take to help ease consumers' growing problem of medical debt. But the odds don't look good.
The center partnered with KQED on this project.
In the last few years it’s become more and more apparent that making changes to the health care system is a monumental task.
As protesters for and against the federal health care law took to Washington’s Capitol before the measure passed last year…to the heated GOP primary race debates calling for the repeal of the law today, many are left wondering if it’s politically possible for the government to help them avoid mounting medical bills.
Medical debt today is at an all-time high and for people staring down mounting medical bills it can be overwhelming. You can listen to this interview with The California Report’s host Rachael Myrow and Kelley Weiss here.
After trying for months to get some relief on $72,000 in medical debt, Andy Gee has made some progress.