© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Many upstate New Yorkers among those Americans who have trouble paying medical bills


Tens of millions of Americans have problems paying their medical bills. A quarter of Americans adults report that someone in their household had trouble budgeting medical expenses in the past year this includes people with insurance.

The statistic comes from a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times. The survey found that people with medical debt often put off medical care for financial reasons. Christine Wagner, Executive Director of the St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center in Rochester, says this something her organization has been seeing for some time.

“I really think the high deductible is the key here, and especially when you get into a family plan, the deductible is almost astronomical,” says Wagner. St. Joseph’s originally only treated people without insurance, but in some cases they’ve started providing services to insured people who still can’t afford medical care.

“The cost of using that insurance, the co-payments, really still wind up being a barrier that means that they are not getting or are not taking care of adequate care because they can’t afford it,” says Wade Norwood, chief strategy officer for the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, a not-for-profit community health planning agency.

Norwood says the Affordable Care Act has helped many people. Indeed, Americans without insurance are twice as likely to have trouble paying medical bills, the survey reveals.

“And what we’ve got to do is say, ‘Insurance coverage is not enough.’ We’ve really want to talk about making sure that we’ve got a system where everyone is receiving adequate care,” says Norwood.

Wagner says the mere fact that the survey was done is good news.

“Recognizing of the fact is always the first step to moving to some kind of solution,” she says.

One partial solution, she says, is the new essential plan that covers low income New Yorkers who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

The problem isn’t unique to the poor. The survey found 26 percent of Americans with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 a year were among those with trouble meeting medical costs.