In most US states, patients are responsible for their own medical debts. This means that some consumers are left struggling with debt after receiving large medical bills – and most are unable to get help when it comes to negotiating better terms or more affordable payments.
Patients with no insurance or inadequate insurance are often left with medical bills that can be incredibly challenging to pay. In fact, statistics from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) show that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy filings nationally.
However, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, some states, including Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, and Maine, are introducing new laws that will protect patients from huge medical debts and from aggressive actions by debt collectors.
These limits will give patients more protection, as they will place limits on healthcare providers and collection agencies, as even with health insurance, medical debt is common. This is particularly harmful to people on lower incomes and those with long-term health conditions.
Patients need price transparency
For consumers with insurance, large deductibles, out-of-network services, and other charges can mean surprise medical bills and unmanageable debt, despite federal and state efforts to address this issue and promote price transparency.
Despite price disclosure rules, patients are still facing issues over transparent prices. One study carried out by researchers from Johns Hopkins and Michigan State universities found that some hospitals are charging thousands of dollars more for scans than other hospitals.
Medical bills are currently the biggest source of debt in collections at approximately $140 billion – more than all other types of debt combined, including utilities and credit cards.
Research shows that there’s a strong link between debt and mental health, and an unexpected medical bill can cause major financial distress at a time when many people are already experiencing anxiety over their health.