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Half Of Americans Fear A Major Health Crisis Could Lead To Bankruptcy

We’re all human, which means at some point in our lives, we’ll need to be seeing our trusted medical professionals about something or other concerning our health. Unfortunately, for many Americans, this unavoidable fact also has them wondering if they’ll need to start looking up a bankruptcy lawyer in Boulder (or wherever they may reside), as a single health crisis could be enough to permanently disrupt the finances of an entire family. 

Just how many are facing these fears, and what does the situation mean for the future of the country? These are complex questions, of course, but today, we can take a look at some of the basics and try to gain an understanding of the issue at a rudimentary level…

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, a sizable portion of Americans were acutely aware of how serious a major health event could be. A 2019 report, The U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis, pointed out that about 45% of adults in the United States had real concerns about a health emergency leading to financial ruin, and that percentage has only increased since Coronavirus unleashed its devastation upon the world.

The followup studies, released mid-2020, showed that on the whole, about half of the country was worried about the financial aftereffects of a health crisis, though there was some deviation when looking at specific groups, as you can see:

  • Women: 51% concerned
  • Men: 49% concerned
  • Whites: 43% concerned
  • Nonwhites: 64% concerned
  • 18-29: 55% concerned
  • 30-49: 55% concerned
  • 50-64: 48% concerned
  • 65+: 40% concerned

What’s fueling these concerns? In part, the pressures of the pandemic have many individuals coming to the realization of how fragile human life can be, and how easy it is to find oneself in a predicament where a lengthy hospital stay can result in exorbitant bills for a family.

Combined with that immediate danger, however, there are underlying conditions that many face  that are adding to their stress, as pointed out by Gallup:

  • One fifth of non-white adults already have long term medical debt. According to Gallup, “15% of adults report that at least one person in their household currently has medical debt that will not be repaid within the next 12 months.” Poorer households are over four times more likely than wealthier households to have such debt. 
  • One-quarter of US adults need to borrow money for just a $500 bill. Breaking that down further, Gallup states that 12% would take out a loan or use a credit card, while 14% would borrow money from family (furthering the burden on the family in the process).
  • Drug pricing plays a role for about 35% of adults. Gallup indicates that this is an important voting issue for American adults, and a more significant issue for nonwhites than their white  adult counterparts.

And remember, this is all in addition to the tremendous hurdles presented by Coronavirus. Thanks to the pandemic, more Americans avoid seeking care because they believe that the costs associated with treatment will (figuratively) cripple them. This disproportionately affects minorities, and presents a compounding crisis that will play out over the years to come.