Health care costs cause anxiety for U.S. adults, regardless of their affluence, we learn in Uncertainty About Healthcare, the latest Stress in America poll from the American Psychological Association.
The big stat is that 2 in 3 Americans say the cost of health insurance is a stressor for them or their loved ones, whether the person earns more or less than $50,000 a year.
Underneath that top-line are some demographic differences. Millennials are most concerned about access to mental health care compared with Boomers and older adults. Reproductive care access is of most interest to Millennials and Gen Xers. Two-thirds of Hispanic adults are stressed when thinking about potentially losing access to healthcare services, versus 49% of white Americans.
The first chart illustrates that whether more or less affluent, a majority of Americans feel stress about the cost of health insurance, uncertainty about the future, changes in health policy coming out of the Federal government, the cost of medicines, and medical bills.
Uninsured people register greater stress than people with insurance, but only slightly lower.
These statistics came out of the APA’s 2017 Stress in America survey conducted online by The Harris Poll in August 2017 among 3,440 US adults 18 and over.
You can track the APA’s ongoing research into stress and anxiety on Twitter #StressAPA.
The APA has been studying Americans’ stress levels over the past few years in the Association’s Stress in America project. I’ve covered various reports in this ongoing research, including political anxiety borne out of the 2016 Presidential campaign and healthcare in America as a stress-inducer, above the economy, terrorism, or war.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Financial health is intimately tied to physical health in America, I wrote yesterday here in Health Populi based on the latest report from HCCI on health care costs and utilization (the theme: “spend more, get less health care”).
An important financial wellness issue for Americans is the risk of going bankrupt due to health care costs. This isn’t a new phenomenon, and in fact improved after the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2013. However, there is growing evidence that the U.S. personal savings rate has declined of late, credit card delinquencies are growing among US banks, and delinquencies on credit card loans are topping out at smaller US banks.
This week we learned that Mick Mulvaney, who leads the White House Budget Office and serves as the CFPB’s interim chief, earmarked $0 (yes, zero dollars) for the budget of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The CFPB has played a large role in helping American patients with high medical bills manage their credit profiles and address scams that target patients with hefty medical bills and debt due to expensive hospital stays and specialty drug financing. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the story of Mulvaney’s zero-dollar budget for the CFPB.
Mulvaney’s rationale is that this budget cut can help reduce the Federal deficit.
This amounts to a risk-shift to poor and middle-class American patients, who have turned to the CFPB for help in addressing medical bankruptcies and scams.
See the second chart, which shows that 52% of credit report complaints are due to medical debt, above all other forms of debt, from cable bills and utilities to car and student loans.
Furthermore, note the proportion of the number of complaints presenting to the CFPB in 2015: medical debt complaints number five times the volume of student loan problems.
With growing costs faced by patients, which more adversely impact lower income Americans, the role of the CFPB is significant. Financial health and physical health are inextricably linked in the U.S. Together, these forces combine as a double-whammy risk factor for ill-health, both physical and fiscal. Without a resilient CFPB to help Americans maintain their financial health, we’ll see a downturn in both the fiscal and physical that will exacerbate the already-wide income disparity between rich and poor in America.