The affordability of medical bills is shifting for credit-challenged Americans, with 44% who have a credit score of 669 or lower saying their deductible is not affordable.
By Alan Goforth | November 30, 2023 at 12:00 PM
The high cost of health care is taking a toll on the health of Americans. More than half of consumers feel stressed when paying their medical bills, and more than 9 in 10 say the stress of these payments has affected their physical and mental health, a recent study from PayMedix found.
“A surprising finding from this research is that most American workers with employer-provided health insurance face daunting health care billing and payment problems,” according to the report from the health care payment processing company. “Much of it stems from higher out-of-pocket costs as more employers have had to transition workers into higher-deductible plans to share in increased cost burden of health coverage. These affordability challenges are not only exacerbating a medical debt crisis but they are also causing many Americans to avoid care or disengage with the health care system entirely.”
Among the other key findings:
- The affordability of medical bills is shifting for credit-challenged Americans, with 44% who have a credit score of 669 or lower saying their deductible is not affordable.
- The impact of high medical bills is forcing employees to make tough financial decisions, with 30% of Americans saying they have had to dip into their savings after an unexpected medical bill and 17% having to delay payments.
- Consumer confusion is a compounding factor that weighs on Americans, with employees reporting they receive more than 70 bills or statements annually, and more than a quarter are unable to decipher what they owe.
- Employees are looking for help from their employers to address the stress and confusion, and 60% say their employers have a responsibility to provide financial strategies.
- Stress is most prominent among younger generations, people of color and those with poor credit scores.
“Employees and employers agree that health care is a crucial benefit,” the report says. ”Yet it’s the one benefit that causes the most stress, confusion and dissatisfaction among patients, employers and providers alike. Most respondents in our study believe employers are responsible for providing employees with financial strategies to better manage their health insurance.”
However, fewer than 1 in 5 say their employer currently provides credit for all employees or a simplified billing solution. Half of the respondents want a simplified billing solution, with most finding flexible payment options the most desirable, followed by guaranteed credit for out-of-pocket maximums.
“One challenge in improving health equity is that many underprivileged populations still struggle to gain access to financial credit — even when insured,” according to the report. “While more people may be able to afford insurance, not all can truly use that insurance.”
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