A recent survey released by the Kaiser Family and the New York Times found that tens of millions of Americans are having difficulty paying their medical bills. In fact, a quarter of American adults report that someone in their family or household has trouble paying for their medical expenses. And for many upstate New Yorkers, this is an ever-present, unpleasant reality.
“I really think the high deductible is the key here, and especially when you get into a family plan, the deductible is almost astronomical,” says Christine Wagner, the Executive Director of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center in Rochester, who notes that this is something her organization has been witnessing for quite some time now.
At first, Wagner St. Joseph’s only treated individuals without any health insurance, but for certain cases, they started providing services for individuals who are insured but still can’t afford to pay deductibles.
“The cost of using that insurance, the co-payments, really still wind up being a barrier that means that they are not getting or are not taking care of adequate care because they can’t afford it,” adds Wade Norwood, the standing chief strategy officer for Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency.
According to Norwood, the Affordable Care Act has been beneficial to many people. And as the Kaiser survey has revealed, Americans without insurance are twice as likely to have trouble to pay their medical bills. This can hurt a person’s credit — nearly 20% of all credit scores are hurt by unpaid medical bills — and lead to future financial issues down the line.
“And what we’ve got to do is say, ‘Insurance coverage is not enough.’ We’ve really want to talk about making sure that we’ve got a system where everyone is receiving adequate care,” says Norwood.
And while the situation is bleak for many Americans, surveys like the Kaiser Family Foundation and New York Times survey are important as they bring public awareness to an issue that isn’t nearly discussed enough.
“Recognizing of the fact is always the first step to moving to some kind of solution,” she says.