Even with health insurance, many struggle to pay medical expenses

Even having health insurance is no guarantee Americans won't be burdened with medical debt, according to a new survey.

Despite the fact they have health insurance, one in five working-age Americans say they have problems paying their medical bills, often with significant financial and personal consequences, according to a recent joint Kaiser Family Foundation and New York Times survey.

Among that group, 63 percent report using up most or all of their savings, 42 percent took on an extra job or worked more hours to pay those medical expenses, 14 percent moved or took in roommates and 11 percent turned to charity, the survey found.

While the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by an estimated 15 million since 2013, in large part as a result of the Affordable Care Act, having health insurance is not a guarantee of protection from significant medical debt, the New York Times reports.

The poll found 20 percent of people younger than 65 who have health insurance reported having problems paying their medical bills in the last year. As expected, the number is higher for those without insurance, with 53 percent facing financial difficulty from medical bills and reporting similar financial and personal consequences.

Of those who were insured when they incurred medical bills, three-quarters or 75 percent said the amount they had to pay for copays, deductibles, or coinsurance were more than they could afford, the survey found.

"Problems with medical bills would be significantly worse without the ACA. But adequacy of health insurance will become more pressing with so many Americans experiencing problems paying medical bills each year and as deductibles and other forms of cost sharing continue to increase," Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, wrote in a commentary published by the Wall Street Journal.

Forty-six percent of workers covered by employer insurance faced a deductible of at least $1,000 in 2015, as FierceHealthPayer reported. A recent review found that in many states, more than half the plans available on the Affordable Care Act's online federal marketplace have a deductible of $3,000 or more.

To learn more:
- read the survey
- read the New York Times report
- read commentary from Drew Altman

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