May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

137 Million American Adults Suffered Medical Financial Hardship in 2015-2017

May 02, 2019 11:18 AM EDT

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137 Million American Adults Suffered Medical Financial Hardship in 2015/2017
(Photo : Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay)

According to the researchers from American Cancer Society, a new study finds medical financial hardship is common among people in the United States with more than half reporting problems with affordability, stress, or delaying care because of cost. The researchers published the study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and it estimates more than 100 million people in the United States experience medical financial hardship.

High out-of-pocket expense for medical care is an increasingly crucial issue for patients in the United States. It tends to lead to a depletion of assets and medical debt as well as distress and worry about household finances. There is the possibility of patients delaying or forgoing required medical care because of cost, jeopardizing benefits of treatment. Also, illness can impact the ability to work and reduce productivity, limiting household income and potentially reducing access to employer-sponsored health insurance in the working age population ages 18 - 64 years.

Though several studies have looked at the financial toll of a cancer diagnosis, little is known about economic hardship in the general population outside of oncology. For the latest research, Robin Yabroff led a team of researchers and assessed the prevalence of material such as problems paying medical bills, psychological including worry about medical bills, and behavioral, like delaying or forgoing medical care due to cost, domains of financial hardship using data from the 2015 - 2017 National Health Interview Survey.

Overall, the researchers discovered that 56.0 percent of adults at least one domain of medical financial hardship, representing 137.1 million adults in the United States. Compared with those 65 years and older, adults 18 to 64 reported higher material, 28.9 percent vs. 15.3 percent, psychological, 46.9 percent vs. 28.4 percent, and behavioral, 21.7 percent, medical financial hardship.

From 18 to 64 of the adults, those with less educational attainment and more health conditions were more likely to report high intensity of hardship. Women were more likely to report multiple domains of difficulty than men. And the uninsured were more likely to report numerous areas of pressure, 52.8 percent, compared to those with some public, 26.5 percent, and private insurance, 23.2 percent.

The authors of the study concluded that except the action is taken, the problem is likely to worsen. With the increasing prevalence of multiple chronic conditions, higher patient cost-sharing and higher costs of healthcare, the risk of hardship will likely increase in the future. Consequently, development and evaluation of the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies to minimize medical financial hardship will be necessary.

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