Survey Shows US Families Who Can’t Pay Hospital Bills Still High

A study by the The Commonwealth Fund, a private institution in the United States which seeks to promote a better health system, showed that a third of American adults forgo a visit to the hospital because they either have no insurance or a plan that is inadequate for their true needs. Those who seek medical care and pay their hospital bills did not end up any better anyway because they have no money to purchase medicines. Contrast that with some areas in Europe such as United Kingdom and the Netherlands, for example, which boast of just 5-6 percent slippage in the number of patients in population who failed to seek medical care due to insurance concerns.

The same survey showed that one in five adults or about 20% in the US could not pay hospital bills. You know what’s the second developed country in the list? France, with a measly nine percent. The issues don’t stop there because the U.S. also has one of the highest out-of-pocket expenses-meaning the amount patients pay before insurance kicks in-for medical bills in the world, right up there (or to be more specific, right down there) with other third world countries with poor government allocation for health service.

The study compared the health care systems in 11 countries like Canada, Australia, U.K., Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, France, U.S. and Germany. The gap between the rich and the poor has more impact on the capacity of the patient to pay hospital bills compared to other countries where the “haves” usually foot the bill for the “have-nots.”

The report result is nothing new, of course, because it only confirms what most of us already knows: there’s a need to reform the U.S. health system.

The study analyzes findings from the Commonwealth Fund 2010 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, focusing on insurance and access to health care experiences reported by 19,700 adults from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The study reveals widespread disparities by income within the United States. Lower income U.S. adults were far more likely than those with above average incomes to report difficulty with medical bills and timely access to health care.

“We spend far more on health care than any of these countries, but this study highlights pervasive gaps in U.S. health insurance that put families’ health and budgets at risk,” said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen, lead author of the article. “In fact, the U.S. is the only country in the study where having health insurance doesn’t guarantee you access to health care or financial protection when you’re sick. This is avoidable – other countries have designed their insurance systems to value access and limit out-of-pocket costs.”

A new 11-country survey from The Commonwealth Fund finds that adults in the United States are far more likely than those in 10 other industrialized nations to go without health care because of costs, have trouble paying medical bills, encounter high medical bills even when insured, and have disputes with their insurers or discover insurance wouldn’t pay as they expected. According to the report, the findings highlight the need for Affordable Care Act reforms that will ensure access to health care, protect people from medical debt, and simplify health insurance.

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