Oct 9, 2019

Emergency room visits create financial disruptions for patients

Photo: Terry Vine/Getty Images

Medical bills have created financial hardship for most Americans within the last 5 years, including most people with high credit scores, according to a new survey by Elevate's Center for the New Middle Class.

Why it matters: Health care costs are increasingly unaffordable not just to low-income or financially illiterate people, but also to those who are comfortably middle class with a proven track record of money management.

  • The survey divided respondents into "prime" and "non-prime" categories based on their credit score, with "prime" responders having a score of 700 or above.

Even worse, 43% of those surveyed said that they've had catastrophic hardship because of medical expenses over the past 5 years, including 31% of prime respondents and 59% of non-prime.

By the numbers: More than half said someone in their household had visited an emergency room in the past 5 years.

  • 65% of prime respondents said the visit was at least a little financially disruptive, while 72% of non-prime respondents said it was. And 17% of people in each category said it was very disruptive.
  • Non-prime respondents who have used the ER were nearly 3 times more likely to report that they haven't yet paid off their bills.
  • Emergency rooms are often the source of surprise medical bills. Even so, respondents reported that inpatient hospital visits were the source of the most disruptive expenses.

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Private investment into the health care sector may bring innovation, but it's also led to revenue-seeking behaviors at the expense of patients, three employees of The Commonwealth Fund argue in Harvard Business Review.

By the numbers: There were nearly 800 private equity health care deals in 2018, with a total value of more than $100 billion.

Go deeperArrowOct 30, 2019

A growing emergency medical services problem in rural America

A paramedic prepares an ambulance for upcoming calls in Evergreen, Colorado. Phot: Kathryn Scott/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Ambulance services are closing in record numbers across rural America after failing to make ends meet, leaving 60 million Americans at risk of having no help in a medical emergency, NBC News reports.

The big picture: Some states are giving money to emergency medical services, but experts say it's not enough to solve the problem.

Go deeperArrowOct 23, 2019

Four health care questions for a better Democratic debate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

If tonight’s Democratic debate is anything like the earlier ones, it will feature an extended back-and-forth about whether to eliminate private health insurance, and then move on from health care. But there’s a whole lot more that’s also worth asking about.

The big picture: We basically know what the candidates will say about the question of private insurance, because they’ve said it all before. So here are four other questions that might also help illuminate the choice voters face on such a deeply personal, wildly complex topic.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019