Americans Have Had to Borrow $88 Billion to Cover Health Care Costs in the Past Year

A new survey from Gallup has some eye-popping findings.

Elnur/Shutterstock

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

If you needed proof that Americans are going into debt to pay for medical treatment due to the United States’ deeply flawed healthcare system, look no further. Americans borrowed more than $88 billion in the past year to cover healthcare costs, with nearly 3 million individuals borrowing $10,000 or more, according to a new study conducted by Gallup and West Health.

The study, which surveyed more than 3,500 randomly selected adults, paints a stark picture of Americans’ concerns about healthcare costs. Almost half of those surveyed said they feared a major health event would leave them bankrupt, while 77% expressed concerns that rising healthcare costs would damage the U.S. economy. People who can’t afford to pay for healthcare either borrow money or forgo treatment altogether: the study estimates that 65 million adults who had a health issue last year did not seek treatment due to costs.

Americans spend more on health care than other citizens of other countries. Lots more. And despite the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, medical costs are still a factor in more than 66% of bankruptcies, according to a study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health. One of the results of this is dysfunctional system is that more and more people are forced to turn to crowdfunding campaigns to pay for medical bills, like the dystopian popularity contests Stephen Marche wrote about last year. “America is becoming a country so free that everyone must beg to survive, and most will not beg well enough.”

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate