- Over 45% of Americans say healthcare bills have put them in debt, according to a new poll conducted for telehealth startup Babylon.
- More than a third of respondents in the survey also said they are struggling, or will struggle, to pay for health maintenance costs, emergency needs and private health insurance. Consumers in the 25 to 34 age group were especially concerned about costs, according to the survey of 5,000 adults conducted in early August.
- The peek inside Americans’ medical debt challenges comes amid a slump in consumer confidence in October and soaring inflation that has eaten up household budgets this year.
Over the past two decades, the cost of medical care typically has climbed faster than overall prices for consumer goods and services and has outpaced income growth for many Americans. In recent months, however, overall consumer inflation has reached a 40-year high, and medical care costs, while still growing at a rate similar to past years, have lagged.
The slower rate of medical inflation this year relative to the broader economy may reflect that healthcare prices are set in advance during annual negotiations with payers. Health sector prices could increse in the months ahead if surging hospital labor costs are not contained, according to a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Peterson Center.
The Babylon survey suggests many Americans are having difficulty managing their healthcare expenses and are unprepared financially to deal with a health emergency.
One in 10 survey respondents said they would not be able to afford any out-of-pocket costs if they had a medical emergency, and almost six in 10 said they do not maintain a dedicated savings fund for health emergencies.
Younger adults aged 25 to 34 were the most worried about healthcare affordability, the poll found, with 56% saying they will struggle, or are struggling, to pay for health maintenance costs. According to the survey, 48% expect difficulty paying for emergency needs and 55% are struggling to afford private health insurance.
Among all age groups, 11% of the adults polled said they could afford up to $50 in out-of-pocket expenses in an emergency, and another 11% would be able to afford up to $100.
Babylon’s findings echo those of a Commonwealth Fund survey released last month that found high healthcare costs prevented or delayed care for 46% of respondents, with 42% citing difficulties paying medical bills or debt.