Are Medical Bills Crippling the US Economy?

Here in Blighty, we don’t have to worry too much about medical bills per se. Since the NHS provides for our medical needs, we get to enjoy ‘Free’ coverage through our tax money. Of course, there are a wide range of alternative treatments and complimentary Health Care Services that come at a premium. The latest statistics indicate that an estimated 8% of the UK populace uses private insurance for their health care needs. The National Health Service (NHS) is the biggest health care service in the world and it is also one of the world’s largest employers, directly behind the Chinese Army, the Railways of India and US employer Wal-Mart.

In the US, it’s an entirely different story. Back in 2009, then US President Barack Obama stated that medical bankruptcy filings occur every 30 seconds in the country. That translates into a million bankruptcy filings annually. The number of bankruptcies taking place in the United States (Trading Economic Statistics) has decreased significantly since July 2016 when it was recorded at 25,227 companies. Fast-forward to February 2018, the figure is 23,106 bankruptcies, as numbers inch towards the 23,000 level. While company bankruptcy filings are decreasing, the number of bankruptcies due to an inability to repay medical bills remains high.

Bankruptcies related to nonpayment of medical bills continue to plague US households across the board. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) conducted research that shows an estimated 26% of people in the US between the ages of 18 – 64 have trouble repaying their medical bills. That translates into 52 million adults in the US. The problem with medical bills is that they are often an unplanned expense. Accidents, illnesses, or tragedy occurs when we least expect it, and it is hardly ever an opportune time. The costs associated with US medical care are exorbitant, and this does not bode well for proper financial management and planning. In the US, medical costs can be negotiated, according to DebtConsolidation.

  • You can ask for a reduction in your medical bills, especially if there is no medical insurance available. Options like calling the billing department at the hospital can go a long way towards reducing your debts.
  • You can renegotiate the terms of your invoice to ensure that you have a 0% repayment plan. This is one of the most common forms of assistance hospitals offer patients who are unable to pay their bills in full on time.
  • You can also request bill forgiveness, or to have the entire invoice written off. It’s almost inconceivable to think that such benefits can be afforded to you with a simple phone call.
  • You can ‘shop around’ and you may be able to negotiate a repayment plan with your health care facility before you have the procedure done. That way, there are no nasty surprises.
  • If you are employed by a company, you may be able to use an HSA (Health Savings Account), or an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) to pay for your medical bills.

Expert studies indicate that the error rates with medical bills ranges between 30% and 40% (unpublished University study), and between 80% – 90% (patient advocates study). In other words, leading authorities highly recommended that US patients and foreigners receiving treatment in the US should always carefully analyze the bills they have received. Once you have received a medical bill, the experts recommend that you pay it down with a 0% APR credit card if you don’t have the money, or a low-interest rate personal line of credit. Some 41% of people in 2018 reduce their savings contributions to pay down medical debt, 36% use up their savings, and 32% increase their loans or credit card debt to pay medical bills. In the UK, these may be alien concepts but they are crippling US economic prosperity.

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