Americans Put Off Medical Treatments Because They Can’t Pay

A new report from the Kauffman Family Foundation finds that more than a quarter of Americans say that someone in their household is struggling to pay medical debt.

Not surprisingly, many dealing with the crushing weight of medical debt aren’t those suffering from continuing, chronic illness—they’re people who have had a sudden or one-time illness.

A new report from the J.P. Morgan Chase Institute found that for median-income households — that is those who make around $57,000 a year — expenses fluctuated by an average of 29 percent, or $1,300 from month-to-month.

The Atlantic notes:

The study’s authors took a look at what they considered extraordinary medical expenses, defined as those expenses that were both large (more than $400 and more than 1 percent of annual income) and unusual (falling more than two standard deviations outside of a household’s normal monthly spending). According to the report, about 40 percent of middle-class and older families faced an extraordinary expense of $1,500 or more due to a medical expense, taxes, or a car problem during a 12-month period. Around 16 percent of middle-income households had one large medical expense during a year-long period, and around 39 percent experienced a medical expense during a three year period. And these expenses tended to show up at the same time that households saw an uptick in income.

These numbers are troubling as America has long struggled to provide affordable health care, or any health care at all. It’s taken on urgency as lawmakers in Congress attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act which dramatically reduced personal bankruptcies caused by medical debt.