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Expand chart
Data: Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

People with major medical illnesses are having serious problems paying for the health care they need — a crisis that is flying under the radar while attention is focused on hot policy issues like the Affordable Care Act and "Medicare for All."

The big picture: A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Los Angeles Times shows that a strikingly large share of people with serious medical conditions are struggling to pay their medical bills, often wreaking havoc with their family budgets and causing them to cut back on care.

By the numbers: Take people with employer coverage who have a chronic condition such as hypertension, asthma, a serious mental health condition, diabetes, heart disease or cancer. It’s not a small group; just over half of those with employer coverage say someone in their family is currently receiving treatment for one of these or another chronic condition.

  • 6 out of 10 people in this group report that they or a family member skipped or postponed medical care or prescription drugs they needed because of costs, or tried a home remedy instead.
  • High deductibles can make things worse: Among those with chronic conditions whose deductibles are at least $3,000 for an individual or $5,000 for a family, three-quarters report skipping or postponing some type of care.
  • About half — 49% — say they or a family member had problems paying medical bills or difficulty affording their premiums, deductibles or co-pays in the last year.

There are ripple effects on family budgets, too. A substantial share of people reported taking measures such as increasing credit card debt (28%), using up most of their savings (26%), taking an extra job (19%), and borrowing money from others (14%) to pay for health care or insurance costs.

And this was over the last year. We ask the question that way because people can more easily remember more recent experiences. It’s not hard to imagine that the share of people with chronic conditions who experience these problems over the course of a longer time period is much higher.

People who do not have serious illnesses also struggle with affordability challenges, but fewer of them do (29%). Their worries that they will get sick and not be able to pay their bills fuels health care as a political issue.

The bottom line: It may not be surprising that people who are sick have more problems; they use more care. But it is the opposite of how a compassionate and functional insurance system should work.

Go deeper

54 mins ago - World

UN Security Council meeting on Israel-Gaza as fighting enters 7th day

Smoke billows from a fire following Israeli airstrikes on multiple targets in Gaza on May 16. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council was preparing to meet Sunday, as the aerial bombardment between Israel and Hamas between entered a seventh day.

The latest: Four Palestinians died in airstrikes early Sunday, as Israeli forces bombed the home of Gaza's Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, per Reuters.

6 hours ago - World

In photos: Protests in U.S., across the world over Israeli–Palestinian conflict

A protest march in support of Palestinians near the Washington monument in Washington, D.C. on May 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of people rallied across the U.S. and the world Saturday following days of violence in Gaza and Israel that's killed at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and eight Israelis, per AP.

The big picture: Most demonstrations were in support of Palestinians. There were tense scenes between pro-Israeli government protesters and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Winnipeg, Canada, and Leipzig, Germany, but no arrests were made, CBS News and DW.com report.

Updated 13 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.