Thursday, August 21, 2008

72 Million Find Health Care Bills a Burden

Bloomberg has an interesting article up by Aliza Marcus in which they take a look at the impact that health care costs are having on the average American. By now, everyone is familiar with the fact that 47 million people in the US have no coverage. What you may not be aware of is that for a grand total of 72 million people, the cost of health care is a major issue.

Documentation of the 34% rise in cost over the past two years via Bloomberg:

An estimated 72 million adults under age 65 have difficulty paying their medical bills or are paying off debt from health-care expenses, based on the survey, taken last year and released today by the Commonwealth Fund, a health-policy center in New York. Sixty-one percent of those struggling said they had health insurance.
As someone who has been paying off medical bills from a bout with kidney stones since 2004, I can relate. When viewed from inside the queue, the costs are monolithic, especially on a writer's pay. For the average Joe, it can often become a choice between health care or a roof over your head. Not a pleasant decision to make.

Based on the newer survey, 28 million Americans used all their savings on medical expenses, 21 million built up substantial credit-card debt and 21 million couldn't pay for basics such as food, heat or rent.

"Working people are struggling to pay their bills and accruing medical debt,'' said Sara Collins, the fund's assistant vice president, in a statement.

I used to have savings. Really, I did. Thankfully, I have not hit the point where it becomes a choice between the bill and groceries, although there have been months where it went unpaid in order to ensure that I could put food on the table. It gives me an unfortunate inside view of the situation.

Having coverage does little if the bills are unpayable. This is why cost-reducing measures like the enforcement of industry wide standards and practices and implementation of electronic medical records are so important.

SOURCE: "Medical Bills Burden 72 Million Working-Age Adults in U.S. " 08/20/08
photo courtesy of Ashley Pollack, used under its Creative Commons license

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