Medical costs crippling many Americans

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More than one out of every four Americans today are struggling to keep up with healthcare costs, while many worry about futures medical bills or are skimping on treatments as they try to make ends meet. Those are some of the results from a just-published national Health Care Costs Survey of American adults conducted by USA TODAY, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health, USA Today reports.
   
Even adults with health insurance are struggling to cover bills, the findings indicate, due to medical cost inflation which would probably strike many as surprising. The survey found that 62 percent of Americans at the breaking point with costs actually have health insurance. Such results bring home the impact that rising premiums, holes in coverage and large deductibles are having on patients.
   
The survey also found that 28 percent of participants found it impossible to meet the costs of at least one medical treatment in the last 12 months.
   
Hardest hit by the situation are the working class and middle-income families with children, and also the chronically ill, disabled, and most significantly the uninsured, the study found. To deal with the situation, some are forced to skip treatments, medications, or float or ignore debts.

After the uninsured, the groups taking the worst from the soaring costs are adults below the age of 65 who are insured but who have household incomes under $75,000, according to the survey.

The middle class is much more likely to struggle to find the money for medical costs the survey found. That group also is more likely to have had to shell out as much or more than $1,000 for care out-of-pocket or to have skipped treatments or medications in order to make ends meet.
   
However, it's not all bad for some people in certain segments of the population. Some middle income adults get by if they are willing to postpone the purchase of certain non-essentials. In fact, 39 percent are apparently satisfied with the amounts they pay for medical coverage, the survey found.
   
In an interesting twist, the survey indicates that elderly Americans were in significantly better shape than some under 65 years of age who have been forced to delay or go without needed treatments or medications.

Other findings include:

  • At least one in five (or more) Americans have an overdue medical bill;
  • After housing payments, about two out of 10 say healthcare costs are their biggest money headache each month;
  • Beyond premiums, nearly three out of 10 say they paid $1,000 or more out-of-pocket for healthcare in last 12 months.

The survey was conducted this past spring by telephone polling 1,531 adults.