November 3, 2022
A report recently released by New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), in partnership with Healthcare Valve Hub at Altarum, found that 38% of New Jersey residents have overdue medical bills. Nearly three in 10 respondents reported owing $5,000 or more in medical debt, and just over one in 10 respondents reported having more than $10,000 in medical debt.
The report also found that among the respondents with medical debt, 96% of them are insured, and 80% of them reported being in good, very good, or excellent health.
The primary reason for debt among the insured was that their insurance plans did not cover the services they sought, with this being the case for 49% of insured respondents with medical debt. In addition, 33% of respondents with insurance and medical debt reported that their debt was because their deductibles were too high and they were unable to meet them, and 14% reported that their coinsurance was too high.
Debbie White, RN, President of Health Professionals and Allied Employees, was quoted in a news release on the report saying, "Medical debt is a scourge across the nation and New Jersey is not immune. This survey found that almost half of respondents with hospital-incurred medical debt were not informed by their hospital of its financial assistance plan or about charity care. Hospitals have a statutory obligation to inform every patient of possible financial assistance when receiving care. That information alone would prevent medical debt for so many New Jerseyans . . . New Jersey hospitals need to step up and do what is required of them as a first step in ending medical debt."
The problem goes beyond even medical debt itself, in that medical debt may negatively impact New Jerseyans' health needs by incentivizing them to ration care for either themselves or loved ones. More than one-third (36%) of respondents reported that their medical debt has prevented them or someone living with them from seeking needed care.