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Is medical debt as stressful as actually being sick or injured?

Recent research suggests that debt resulting from medical services could be even more stressful than the illness or injury that led to the need for care. That may come as a shock to some Washington readers, but many others will be able to sympathize with the overall results of the study. For those who are living under a heavy burden of medical debt, stress levels can be nearly overwhelming.

The research was conducted by a partnership of Ipsos, a global market and research firm, and Amino, a company that focuses on consumer transparency. More than 1,000 adults were surveyed, and asked their opinions on health care costs. Researchers found that as many as 74 percent of Americans have noticed a rise in health care expenses in recent years. More than half of respondents asserted that the experience of receiving a significant medical bill is as negative as the medical condition that prompted the charges. An additional 10 percent stated that the bill is even worse than the medical diagnosis they received.

Respondents also reported receiving medical bills that they couldn't pay. Many shared that in order to pay an unexpected bill, they would have to go into debt. Researchers also projected that no more than 23 percent of Americans would be able to handle unexpected medical expenses of more than $2,000. Survey participants told researchers that they tried to maintain solid insurance coverage to help control medical costs, and some checked the cost of procedures before scheduling an appointment, to avoid billing surprises.

Many Washington residents are unsurprised to learn that medical debt is a serious issue, and that many Americans are unable to afford unexpected care expenses. However, some might be shocked to find that so many people find the cost of care as distressing as the medical issues they were treated for. For those who are struggling under a heavy medical debt burden, debt relief options such as personal bankruptcy could offer lasting relief.

Source:, "53% of Americans equate unaffordable medical bills to being diagnosed with a serious illness", Kelly Gooch, March 21, 2017

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