Care has been denied for a dangerous infection due to past outstanding bills

I feel like I have failed as a parent.

Arian Buck

Arian Buck30, Peoria, Arizona

Approximate medical loan: $ 50,000

Medical problems: Infection

What happened: Arian Buck knew it was important to stay on top of his health care.

A young father living outside of Phoenix with his wife and three children, he survived cancer when he was a child.

But selling health insurance has not always been easy for Aryan and his wife Samantha, a therapist who cares for people with autism.

Many times the family is left behind for treatment. Yet, they never expected to be deprived of the ministry.

Just before Father’s Day in 2016, Aryan became very ill. He could not hold food without vomiting. There was blood in his stool.

Samantha called the family’s primary care doctor and asked for an appointment. But the office box has returned.

“They said they wouldn’t see him because of past outstanding bills,” Samantha said, assuming they owe hundreds of dollars.

Aryan’s only choice was to go to the hospital emergency room. There he was diagnosed with a serious intestinal infection that required intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

The box also hit with thousands of dollars in extra bills that they couldn’t pay.

What’s broken: For decades, hospitals have been required by federal law to provide emergency medical care to any patient, regardless of their ability to pay.

But many medical providers, including physicians, have policies that allow them to reimburse patients with past arrears for non-emergency care.

The practice is surprisingly simple. Nationwide, 1 in 7 Americans with healthcare loans say they have been deprived of care because of the money they owe, according to a survey conducted by KFF.

On top of that, millions of Americans ration for their care. About two-thirds of U.S. adults who borrow money from medical or dental bills say they or a member of their family has stopped receiving the care they need because of the cost.

What’s left: Buck has recovered from the infection and is now healthy. But the family’s medical debt has risen to more than $ 50,000 from Aryan’s bill and Samantha.

Samantha has been to the emergency room twice in the last few years with a painful case of endometriosis.

Box borrowed, loaded their credit cards, and asked for help from charities.

“Everything we had was cut back,” Buck said. Kids after hand-me-downs. They rely on school supplies and rely on families for Christmas presents. A dinner out for pepper is a waste.

“It hurts me when my kids tell me to go somewhere, and I can’t,” Buck said. “I feel like I’ve failed as a parent.”

The couple is preparing to file for bankruptcy.

About this project

“Diagnosis: Debt” is a reporting partnership between KHN and NPR that explores the scale, impact, and causes of medical debt in the United States.

The series draws on the “KFF Health Care Date Survey”, a poll designed and analyzed by KFF public opinion researchers in collaboration with KHN journalists and editors. The survey was conducted online and by telephone in English and Spanish from February 25 to March 20, 2022, in a nationally representative sample of 2,375 U.S. adults, including 1,292 adults with current healthcare loans and 382 adults with healthcare loans. The last five years. The margin of sample error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for full sample and 3 percentage points for those who have current debt. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sample error may be higher.

Additional research was conducted by the Urban Institute, which analyzes data from the Credit Bureau and other populations on poverty, race, and health status to find out where medical debt is concentrated in the United States and what factors are involved with high debt levels.

The JPMorgan Chase Institute analyzed records from a sample of Chase credit card holders to see how the balance of customers could be affected by major medical expenses.

KHN and NPR reporters also conducted hundreds of interviews with patients across the country; Talks with physicians, healthcare industry leaders, consumer lawyers, debt lawyers and researchers; And review studies and survey scores about medical loans.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that creates in-depth journalism about health issues. KHN is one of the three major operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), including policy analysis and polling. KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.

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