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Insurance and medical debt

Struggles with debt are one of the types of financial problems consumers can face. Such struggles can have major impacts on a consumer. There are many types of debt a consumer can struggle with. One of these types is medical debt (debt arising from medical bills).

It appears that an increasing number of Americans are struggling with medical debts. Reportedly, in 2010, around 40 percent of Americans had problems paying medical bills. This rate was reportedly only at 34 percent in 2005.

What about medical insurance? Doesn't having such insurance prevent a person from having to face problems with medical debts? A recent study indicates that having insurance does not necessarily make one immune to medical debt struggles.

The study was led by an economist from the University of Arizona. It looked at data from a survey of 4,200 households in Arizona. The study found that around 27 percent of households that had insurance reported problems paying medical bills. Thus, this study appears to indicate that a fair amount of individuals with insurance have faced struggles with medical debts.

There are some limitations to this study, one of the biggest being that it is based on data from only one state, Arizona. Thus, it is difficult to tell if its findings are indicating a national trend, or just a local trend. It will be interesting to see if any future studies are conducted on this topic using data from a wider geographical region.

Despite its limitations, the study brings up some interesting and important issues regarding the prevalence of medical debt struggles and how much insurance protects individuals from such struggles.

Source: UPI, "Insurance no guard against medical debt," 4 Jul 2011

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