Americans aren’t getting care they need because they’re worried about taking on more medical debt

November 30, 2021

As COVID-19 spread around the globe, many people delayed seeking medical care because they were worried about contracting the virus. Now, as vaccines become more common and the spread of the virus slows, Health Care Dive reports people are still hesitant to seek medical care, but for a different reason: debt.

According to a TransUnion survey, half of the respondents said the economy had some impact on whether they sought medical care. Research from technology company Patientco showed 1 in 3 patients did not get the medical care they needed because of the cost – and because they were concerned about existing medical debt.

“It’s scary and sad to know people are forgoing their physical and mental health for fear that they’ll ruin their financial health with medical treatment,” said Jonathan Wiik, principal of health care strategy for TransUnion Healthcare.

During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs and, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, as many as 3 million people may have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance. People turned to Medicaid or became a dependent on a family plan. Hospitals ran more financial assistance transactions, showing that patients were struggling with the high costs, according to Health Care Dive.

The increased need for financial help wasn’t just because of the pandemic’s toll on the economy, according to Wiik, who says other factors like predatory hospital billing practices are also to blame.

According to TransUnion, 70% of patients said knowing the cost before going in for a medical procedure helped them budget and, if an estimate was provided, 65% said they’d make at least a partial payment in advance.

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