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After the student loan crisis, Americans are drowning in medical debt

After the student loan crisis, Americans are drowning in medical debt

And Emily Stewart wrote in Newsweek recently, that there is another form of debt that the White House should focus on, as it is ravaging families across the country, and that is medical debt.

Emily Stewart is Executive Director of Community Catalyst, a national nonprofit health advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the movement for health equity and justice.

According to US Census Bureau data, 17 percent of American households had accumulated medical debt of nearly $195 billion as of 2019, while some studies show that the percentage is even higher.

A report by a family support foundation showed that millions owe more than $10,000 to each citizen and many of these individuals now face economic hardship as a result, whether from the debt itself, communication problems and lack of clarity about it, chronic mismanagement of financial assistance programs, and aggressive practices To collect unpaid medical bills.

‘unfair’ debt

The writer pointed to the issue of justice as well, because the burden of medical debt falls more on those belonging to minorities, as well as those in poor health, and people with disabilities.

The source reported that 27 percent of African-American families and 19 percent of Hispanic families had medical debt, compared to 16 percent of white families.

To make matters worse, an analysis of Medical Collection Complaints data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 63 percent of patients claim the debt was never due, was not verified as a consumer debt, has already been paid, or has to be dealt with. with him under the rules of bankruptcy.

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“Take, for example, a pregnant woman in New Mexico who was told it would cost $10,000 to deliver her baby at a local non-profit hospital, but was never informed of her entitlement to financial assistance or Medicaid options,” she said.

“Because she was unaware of these options, she planned to sell her personal belongings to cover the cost, until a family member stepped in and helped her apply for Medicaid – however, she later wrongfully received a bill for an ultrasound; This unpaid bill in a credit check after three years, severely harming her ability to buy a home for the family.”

This woman is one of millions, according to the source, because two-thirds of hospitals in the United States are classified as non-profit, however, there is a big disconnect between the billions of dollars in tax credits many of those institutions receive and the amount of savings they provide to society or charitable care.

‘disabled system’

The author adds that hospitals and other health care providers should take immediate steps to relieve the burden of medical debt by changing existing harmful policies; But we cannot rely on a broken system to unilaterally control itself. Real change will only come when policy makers work hand in hand with the people affected to lay new foundations around acceptable and unacceptable policy.

“The Biden administration and Congress must take bolder action,” she added. “It is time to enlist the millions of people with medical debt to help craft a policy that will provide them appropriate relief.”

According to the writer, the options include requesting stronger financial assistance from hospital systems, to banning scandalous collection procedures such as withholding wages or guardianship of people’s homes, to taking aggressive measures against bad actors. And in all of this, management must look to advocates, community organizations and affected people to make sure policy is centered around the experiences and needs of the people most affected.

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“Together, we can begin to transform our crippled health system into one that is shaped by and accountable to all people,” she concluded.