Personal medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. To be precise, personal bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills will affect nearly 2 million people this year – outpacing bankruptcies due to credit-card bills or unpaid mortgages, according to new data.
A new definitive book on the subject has just appeared: "End Medical Debt: Curing America’s $1 Trillion Unpayable Healthcare Debt," by Jerry Ashton, Robert Goff and Craig Antico. The authors are the founders of a national charity, RIP Medical Debt, an organization that first came to America’s attention in 2016 when HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” used the charity to abolish $15 million in medical debt.
By the end of 2018, RIP will have abolished a half billion dollars in medical debt for 250,000 people in communities nationwide. Associated Press calls RIP Medical Debt the “Secret Santas”.
The core of the book is this: In our fervent public debates about the broken U.S. healthcare system, we have overlooked the devastating impacts of America’s urgent medical debt crisis. Everybody knows somebody who struggles with medical debt, and the time has come to bring medical debt into the center of our national conversation about healthcare.
"End Medical Debt," written by three industry insiders, is the first book to bypass political posturing to look clearly and realistically at the actual causes and possible cures for more than $1 trillion in unpayable medical debt in America, accumulating over the past ten years and growing. Medical debt causes hardships for individuals, families, communities, and the country.
The authors lay bare the inner workings of our healthcare system. They show how it produces medical bills that people cannot ever pay, including insured middle-class people who think they are covered. They tell how the early hospitals that focused on patient health evolved into today’s healthcare conglomerates focused on patient revenue.
They also dissect the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to show where theory and reality do not match. And they expose how veterans get laden with medical debt that effectively tells them, “No thank you for your service."
A glimpse into the big picture:
Medical debt destroys financial stability among large segments of America’s most vulnerable communities: the sick, the elderly, the poor, and veterans. It mostly targets the middle class, driving into poverty too many families already barely getting along, who cannot afford any unplanned illness or injury.
Even just an unexpected $500 out-of-pocket medical bill can cause hardship. One in five U.S. adults have medical debt on their credit reports, some with tens or hundreds of thousands in bills. Medical debt on a credit reports prevents one from buying or renting a home and vehicle, or even getting a job to pay those medical bills.
Millennials at age 27, who often carry little or no insurance, carry more medical debt on their credit cards than any other age group. Patients with medical debt tend to avoid adding more debt by ignoring health problems, which worsens their health and increases their costs for care. The doctor of last resort becomes the expensive emergency room, which just compounds medical debt.
Flip to the other side of the picture and we see health care providers, "uncompensated care" or bad debt driving doctors away from private practice. Almost half of all U.S. physicians are now employed by hospital-owned practices, where business margins often overrule health missions.
Unpaid and uncollectible medical bills threaten the fiscal viability of community hospitals, chiefly those providing charity care. A local hospital with massive medical debt may be saved by a community bailout, but taxpayers foot the bill. Higher local taxes make any community less desirable to businesses. Less local affluence attracts fewer talented care givers. Medical debt contributes to both urban and rural communities turning into “healthcare deserts” without affordable care.
Medical debt permeates American society. Now it’s become a crisis we cannot ignore. We need to talk about medical debt, and voicing decades of experience in debt collections, debt buying and healthcare management, the authors of "End Medical Debt" bring deep expertise to solving the problem.
12 medical debt facts
The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other nation on earth.
The U.S. is the only industrialized country reliant on commercial insurance instead of universal healthcare.
At least 20% of all working-age Americans with health insurance have trouble paying medical bills.
An unexpected $500 out-of-pocket medical bill is too much for many people to pay or pay in a timely way.
More than 60% of all insured Americans will deplete most or all of their savings to pay medical bills.
About 10% of adults delay or skip medical care due to costs; worsening health costs more to treat.
At least 43 million Americans have about $75 billion in past-due medical bills on their credit reports.
Medical debt on a credit report generally prevents people from buying or renting homes and cars.
Medical debt on a credit report can keep people from getting a job to pay off their medical bills.
Only 10% of all unpaid medical bills appear on credit reports; at least $1 trillion exists.
Medical debt drives middle class and lower-income families into poverty or homelessness.
Medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.
The charity RIP Medical Debt, founded by the authors of "End Medical Debt," has forgiven $500 million in medical debt for 250,000 Americans since 2014. When you buy your copy of the book today, the authors' proceeds will be donated to RIP Medical Debt – meaning each book sold will abolish at least $500 in debt.
About the authors: Jerry Ashton has more than 40 years of experience in the credit and collections industry. Robert Goff recently retired from 40 years in healthcare administration management. And Craig Antico has 30 years in collections, debt buying, outsourcing and consulting.