Medical expenses leading cause of bankruptcy

Arizona residents might be interested in the findings of a new report by the National Center for Healthcare Statistics. According to the report, medical bills lead to more bankruptcies in the United States than any other single cause. The year 2013 saw approximately 1.7 million Americans declare bankruptcy as a result of medical expenses.

This figure actually is an improvement in the situation over the past few years. Between 2011 and 2013, survey data indicates a 1.9 percent drop in the number of Americans who report struggling to pay medical bills. The decrease represents a difference of 4.8 million people. Those under the age of 18 are the most likely to struggle to pay medical expenses, but that figure is down too, from 23.7 percent in 2011 to 21.3 percent in 2013.

Of the 56 million Americans under 65 who will struggle to pay medical expenses in 2014, 10 million will forego such basics as food and rent to pay for care. Those who have been diagnosed with cancer are 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those who are cancer-free. Many people with chronic conditions must contend not only with hospital bills but with the fact that they are unable to work to pay for their care.

Medical bills, as defined in the study, included bills for hospitals, nursing homes, home care, doctors, dentists and therapists, as well as bills for medications and medical equipment. Of those who reported struggling to pay medical expenses, 14.1 percent had health insurance coverage through a private carrier, 24.7 percent were covered by public insurance such as Medicare. The largest segment reported having no health insurance coverage, which may change now that the Affordable Care Act has taken effect.

Source: Healthline, "20 Percent of Americans Struggle to Pay Medical Bills", Brian Krans , April 09, 2014

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