More Insured Workers Unable To Pay Medical Bills, USA Today Reports
USA Today on Friday examined how a greater number of U.S. workers with health insurance are accruing larger medical bills -- some to the point of bankruptcy -- in part because some employers are shifting a greater share of health care costs to workers. According to USA Today, shifting more costs to insured workers in the form of larger copayments, premiums or deductibles is having "ripple effects," as hospitals are beginning to collect more upfront payments from patients because they have received fewer deductible payments. In addition, a lower personal savings rate nationwide contributes to medical bankruptcies because limited savings leave many U.S. residents unprepared for high medical bills.
A recent study by Harvard researchers found that the average out-of-pocket medical debt for those who filed for bankruptcy is $12,000 and noted that 68% of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. In addition, the study found that half of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses. However, some people have said that the results of the study are not accurate because the definition of medical bankruptcy is too vague. A federal bankruptcy law that will take effect in six months will require many people to repay all or part of their debts, including medical expenses.
USA Today outlined strategies for preventing medical bankruptcy, including:
- Understanding the coverage and limitations of a health insurance policy;
- Being aware of a policy's premium cost, as well as required copayments and deductibles;
- Eliminating credit card debt;
- Purchasing disability insurance; and
- Exploring the options and cost of nonemergency care at several different providers (Appleby, USA Today, 4/29).