Study: Over a third of young adults deal with medical bill trouble, debt

Nickalas Tabbert

More than one-third of young adults have recently struggled with medical bill problems or were paying off medical debt, according to a study.

Over one-third of student-aged adults have had trouble dealing with debt, including paying student loans or tuition payments, paying for essentials like food or rent, and staying in school or following their career plans because of medical debt, a study by the Commonwealth Fund said.

Nearly 40 percent of adults between 19 and 29 did not have health insurance at some point in 2011, CBS News said.  Over 13 million adults between 19 and 25 stayed on or joined their parent’s health plans – nearly half of which would not have been able to do so without the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect in September 2010.

Previously, a person could stay on their parent’s insurance until age 19, or age 22 if they were a full-time college student.

“There’s no question that young people have cut back on high-value screenings, doctor visits and therapies,” said Dr. Mark Fendrick, director of the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design.  “You twist your knee playing soccer and you go to get an MRI.  But if the doctor says you have to pay 50 percent of the cost, you’re going to be less likely to go through with it.”

Commonwealth Fund vice president Sara Collins, lead author of the report, said the law’s major provisions scheduled for 2014 will provide nearly all young adults of all income types with affordable and comprehensive health plans.

The study, based on a survey of nearly 1,900 people, showed that healthcare gaps can significantly worsen young people’s economic status, a U.S. News and World Report article said.  The survey also talked about how health insurance can help young adults by understanding how many have a regular doctor or place of care.

Results show the difficulties of juggling health bills with other living expenses, as 43 percent of survey respondents said they used all their savings for medical bills while 32 percent said it made them unable to pay other loans or tuition. 

“There are no free lunches here.  Someone has to pay for that coverage,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.  Cannon said coverage comes out of wages and can reduce wage amount or the hiring done within a company.

That means fewer jobs for young Americans, Cannon said.

“To a certain extent, this may be leaving a lot of people worse off,” he said.