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Many Americans may be financially unprepared for medical emergencies

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Cabe Chadick
Many Americans may be financially unprepared for medical emergencies
Many Americans may be financially unprepared for medical emergencies

As companies continue to consider the ways in which the Affordable Care Act will change their methods for dealing with employee healthcare needs, it might be important to note just how financially unprepared many workers may be to cover their hospital bills in the event of a medical emergency.

Health insurance premiums rose by an average of 41 percent between 2003 and 2009 alone, and have continued to do so in the time since, according to a report from the Washington National Institute for Wellness. And at the same time, out-of-pocket costs for care have grown considerably as well, particularly where critical illnesses are involved. For instance, the average cancer patient who has health insurance will likely face costs of $712 per month between their co-pays, prescription needs, and other expenses. This cost can be difficult to bear, particularly for those missing work as a result of the illness.

It's believed that as many as 138 million Americans with middling incomes will have to pay significant costs if they were to deal with a critical illness, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, or Alzheimer's, the report said. This is true even of the roughly half of those polled who said they were in either "very good" or "excellent health," made up largely of younger people with slightly higher incomes. In all, only 10 percent of respondents felt they had the necessary funds in savings to help cover these costs.

While the average American has $30,000 in some sort of savings vehicle, about half have been able to save less than $2,000, and a quarter have none at all, the report said. As a consequence, one in four said they would have to rely on credit cards or loans from their family members to cover these costs when health insurance fell short, and the same number had no idea what they would do. Moreover, three-quarters have never heard about insurance policies that specifically cover these critical illnesses, and of those who have, only about one in five have actually signed up for it despite appreciable concerns about the likelihood of suffering from them.

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