Aug 23, 2022 - Health

Chronic conditions linked to financial hardships

Estimated probability of credit outcomes by number of chronic health conditions
Data: Becker, et al., 2022, "Association of Chronic Disease With Patient Financial Outcomes Among Commercially Insured Adults"; Note: The study analyzed insurance claims data from January 2019 to January 2021 and commercial credit data in January 2021; Chart: Axios Visuals

Individuals with a higher number of chronic conditions have a higher chance of encountering financial hardship like medical debt, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: It further cements the connection between well-being and financial stability.

University of Michigan researchers analyzed insurance claims data from January 2019 to January 2021 linked to commercial credit data in January 2021 for adults in Michigan.

  • Among more than 2.8 million commercially-insured adults, rates of delinquent debt in collections, low credit scores and recent bankruptcy went up with the number of chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease and depression that people experienced.

Zoom in: The adjusted amount of medical debt in collections jumped 60%, from $784 for individuals with no chronic conditions to $1,252 for individuals with seven to 13 chronic conditions.

  • Chronic conditions associated with the greatest increases in medical debt in collections were severe mental illness ($274), substance use disorders ($268), stroke ($235), congestive heart failure ($234) and liver disease ($228).
  • "These results have important implications for patients, as worsened financial health is associated with increased rates of forgone medical care, worse physical and mental health, and increased mortality," the researchers wrote.
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