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Emergency room visits create financial disruptions for patients

Ambulance in front of the ER
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.

Go deeper: The only health care prices that matter to consumers