By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, Dec. 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of Americans fear unexpected medical bills and 44% say they couldn't pay a $1,000 surprise bill, a new poll shows.
Those fears aren't unfounded. Among those with private health insurance, 68% have received unexpected medical bills and 33% couldn't pay them on time, while 23% said they haven't paid them yet.
Many Americans (81%) want Congress to pass laws to end surprise medical bills, and three-quarters (including 82% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans) said they would vote for those who supported such legislation.
"Surprise medical bills are a major driver of financial anxiety and disruption for families nationwide that are already straining under the weight of an ongoing pandemic," said Dr. Mitchell Elkind, president of the American Heart Association (AHA).
"For more than a year, Congress has been considering bipartisan legislation to ensure patients aren't stuck with financially devastating bills after seeking care. It is long past time for lawmakers to stop surprise medical bills," said Elkind, who is also a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City.
A surprise medical bill can show up after receiving care that isn't covered by insurance. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened concerns that these bills could wipe people out.
"A patient facing a medical emergency, such as cardiac arrest or stroke, should have to focus only on their immediate medical needs -- not on whether they'll be able to afford care not covered by insurance," Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA, said in an association news release. "Americans want Congress to put an end to surprise medical bills, and they need lawmakers to act now."
The Harris Poll conducted the online survey of just over 2,000 adults from Oct. 12 to 14, 2020.
For more on surprise medical bills, head to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 30, 2020