Medical debt is skyrocketing in New Jersey even if you have insurance

As the cost of going to the doctor and getting medical treatment continues to rise, a new report reveals that a growing number of New Jersey residents are struggling with significant medical debt.

New Jersey Citizen Action, in partnership with Altarum’s HealthCare Value Hub, released a report that found nearly 4 in 10 (38%) Garden State residents have overdue medical bills.

Laura Waddell, health care program director for NJ Citizen Action, said that while 96% of New Jersey residents have some form of medical insurance, “nearly 3 in 10 respondents said they have a medical debt of $5. $000 or more”.

The report reveals that 11% of Jersey residents have more than $10,000 in medical debt.

Medical emergency

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Why is medical debt rising?

She said New Jersey residents report a number of factors causing problems.

“49% said their medical debt was incurred because their service was not covered, 33% said the deductible was too high,” she said.

The survey finds that 36% of white respondents, 40% of black respondents and nearly half of Hispanics in New Jersey said they avoided seeking medical care due to medical debt.

She pointed out that Jersey residents who have this problem “also find themselves on the receiving end of aggressive billing tactics”.

The costs are too high

“For New Jerseyans who have one of the highest costs of living in the nation, the need to deal with this growing medical debt crisis is greater than ever,” Waddell said.

She noted that medical debt can negatively impact residents’ physical health by causing them to ration needed care for their loved ones. More than one in three respondents in New Jersey (36%) say their medical debt has prevented them or someone living with them from seeking needed care.

“You might not think this kind of issue would be so serious for insured people,” she said, “but it clearly is.”

After the report was released, Debbie White, president of Health Professional and Allied Employees, said medical debt “is a plague across the country and New Jersey is not immune. This survey found that nearly half of respondents with hospital-incurred medical debt were not told by their hospital about its financial relief plan or charitable care.

She noted that “hospitals have a legal obligation to inform each patient of possible financial assistance during treatment. This information alone would prevent medical debt for so many New Jerseyans.

Beth Beaudin-Seiler, director of Healthcare Value Hub, said “the data upends any assumption that medical debt is exclusive to those who are uninsured, in poor health or on low incomes. Given the health and financial impacts of medical debt, policymakers should continue to prioritize policies that address medical debt on a wide range of individuals.

David Mathau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

Click here to contact an editor about a comment or correction for this story.

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