Insured US Residents Face Medical Debt

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The Wall Street Journal on Thursday examined how the"number of Americans burdened with massive medical bills has soared"and how hospital bills that exceed $1 million, "while still unusual,are becoming more common as insurance policies once thought to providecatastrophic coverage prove inadequate when it comes to high-costillnesses." According to a recent survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund,34% of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 face problems with medical bills orhave medical debt, although 62% of those individuals have healthinsurance.

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"Part of the problem" is that, "as medical progressand new technologies raise health care costs, health plans have beenslow to raise their" lifetime caps on coverage, the Journalreports. In addition, the "widespread practice of bill padding byhospitals and other health providers" has led to increased health carecosts for patients, according to the Journal. Hospitals"say bill padding is their only defense against the aggressivecost-reduction efforts of insurers and government programs," but the"end result is that individuals can, with little warning, be left stuckwith wildly inflated medical bills," the Journal reports.

The Journalprofiled Jim Dawson, who developed a bacterial skin infection thatrequired five months of hospitalization. During that time, Dawson, whohad health insurance, accrued a $1.2 million hospital bill after heexceeded his $1.5 million lifetime cap on coverage (Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, 11/29).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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