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Fear of Surprise Medical Bills Keeps U.S. Adults From Getting Care

Half of adults say a surprise medical bill would cause financial hardship

paying bills

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of U.S. adults do not seek health care for fear of a surprise medical bill, according to a survey released by the American Heart Association (AHA).

The online survey was conducted by the Harris Poll from Oct. 12 to 14, 2020, and included 2,045 U.S. adults. Among participants, 1,318 had previously received an unexpected medical bill and 977 had private health insurance.

The survey revealed that the majority of respondents (63 percent) would be concerned if they received an unexpected medical bill, and slightly more (68 percent) reported that an unexpected medical expense would pose a significant financial burden to them and their families. Half said that fear of an unexpected medical bill keeps them from seeking care, with Hispanic adults expressing higher worry (61 percent versus 47 percent among Black adults and 46 percent among White adults). More than four in 10 adults said they could not afford a $1,000 surprise medical bill.

"Surprise medical bills are a major driver of financial anxiety and disruption for families nationwide that are already straining under the weight of an ongoing pandemic," Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., AHA president, said in a statement. "For more than a year, Congress has been considering bipartisan legislation to ensure patients aren't stuck with financially devastating bills after seeking care. It is long past time for lawmakers to stop surprise medical bills."

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