The Pandemic is Increasing Americans’ Fears of Bankruptcy
Half of people worry they’re one bad health event away from financial ruin
Amid fears over catching Covid-19, Americans are more worried than ever that a single bad health event could drive them into bankruptcy. A full 50% of people say they’re concerned or extremely concerned, up 5% from a similar survey in early 2019, a new West Health-Gallup U.S. Healthcare survey reveals.
The bankruptcy worry is worse for young adults — 55% among people ages 18 to 29. While 43% of white adults worry, for people of color the concern jumped 12% from early 2019 to 64% now.
People of color came into the pandemic suffering long-standing health disparities and lower access to health care, and now face a far greater impact from Covid-19 — a compounding effect that could take years to recover from.
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Black people are nearly three times more likely than white people to contract Covid-19 and more than twice as likely to die from it. With the pandemic-induced layoffs, some 80% of the 40 million Americans facing possible evictions this year are Black or Latino.
Meanwhile, 15% of U.S. adults already carry medical debt they don’t expect to repay within a year, the new survey finds. This long-term debt is more acute among people of color (20%) and in households making less than $40,000 a year (28%). Another 26% of Americans, and 43% of people of color, say a $500 medical bill would force them to borrow money.
“Rising healthcare costs continue to pose a significant threat to millions of Americans, and the pandemic has only made the situation worse,” Tim Lash, chief strategy officer of West Health, said in a statement. “With so many Americans fearing they are but one health event away from bankruptcy, it’s more urgent than ever for policymakers to finally address the healthcare cost crisis before it gets even more out of control.”