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Americans are worrying about healthcare costs [PODCAST]

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The Hospital Finance Podcast

In this episode, we are joined by Ted Rossman, industry analyst for Bankrate.com, to discuss why American are increasingly worried about the cost of healthcare. 

Learn how to listen to The Hospital Finance Podcast® on your mobile device. 


Highlights of this episode include:

  • Details behind the annual survey by BankRate.com and a focus on some of this year’s alarming results.
  • Why 56% of adult Americans lose sleep over money issues, including healthcare costs.
  • How the cost of healthcare crosses over to other categories, keeping adult Americans up at night.
  • Reasons why some generations worry more or less about issues related to health and healthcare costs.
  • And more…

Mike Passanante: Hi, this is Mike Passanante. And welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance Podcast®. 

Financial worries are something that most of us experience from time to time. Recently, BankRate.com conducted a survey to find out just what is keeping Americans up at night.

To share the results of this survey, I’m joined by BankRate.com analyst, Ted Rossman. Ted, welcome back to the show.

Ted Rossman: Thanks for having me.

Mike: So Ted, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the survey and what you were looking at specifically.

Ted Rossman: This is a study that we’ve done year after year. And we did find some alarming trends this year with more people losing sleep over the kinds of things we asked about.

All told, 78% of US adults are losing sleep over at least one of the things we asked about. And that’s up nine percentage points from last year.

In terms of big categories, the biggest worries are money, relationships, health, work and politics in that order.

Mike: Seems reasonable… let’s talk about the results specifically as it relates to healthcare because you did cover several different kinds of concerns as you mentioned. And first, you zeroed in on expenses and concerns people had over healthcare costs, right?

Ted Rossman: That’s right. And we asked about two different forms of health. One was your actual health, your medical condition. And the other one was paying for it, your healthcare bills, your insurance bills, stuff like that.

And what we found in both instances was that worries are up nine percentage points over a year ago. And that was more than any other category jump within that span.

Obviously, healthcare and paying for it are huge concerns for tons of Americans. I think it does track back to some broader trends of rising costs, and also, a rising number of uninsured Americans.

Gallop says that, over the past few years, there are now 7 million more uninsured people than there were at the start of 2017. And right now, about 14% of US adults lack health insurance.

Mike: Yeah. And so many more are having to pay higher out-of-pocket costs even if they do have health insurance.

Ted Rossman: That’s true also. Yeah, even for people that do have some form of health insurance, there are higher out-of-pocket costs. We find from other studies that the number one thing that gets people into credit card debt, for example, is some sort of emergency. And towards the top of that list are healthcare emergencies. You can also throw car and home repairs in there. We know also that the number one cause of bankruptcy is medical bills.

Clearly, this is a really important issue for a lot of people. And we are seeing it really show up in our data here. It’s not the only thing. I mean, there’s a lot of other pressures weighing on people. But healthcare and the ability to pay for it were towards the top of that list.

Mike: Yeah. So we talked about the ability to pay for it. What do you think is driving the general concern over healthcare, just plain healthcare as opposed to other concerns that people might have in their lives?

Ted Rossman: I think there’s a crossover effect between healthcare costs and other financial costs. I mentioned the link between credit card debt and medical bills, same thing for bankruptcy. I think you could even say the same for every day expenses. That was the thing that stood out among all the money categories. It was every day expenses that bubble to the top. And then, secondary to that was saving for retirement. And then, there were a few other things further down the list.

But I really think what we’re seeing here is that a lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck. We noticed that a few months back with the government shutdown. A lot of people that had what seemed to be solid, steady middle-class jobs, all of a sudden, when they missed a paycheck or two, it was really catastrophic for a lot of people.

And I think there are so many Americans in that position. We know from other research that not enough people have emergency savings. For example, only about one in five have the recommended cushion of six months expenses saved up. And 28% had nothing at all

So, I think it goes to show that when there is an unexpected healthcare cost, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for people.

Mike: Yeah, we certainly heard a lot about that. And very compelling I think in the survey were how the different generations in our country perceive these issues. What can you tell us about that?

Ted Rossman: Baby boomers are the most worried about health. Forty-one percent of boomers are losing sleep over this issue. That was a lot more than millennials and Gen-Xers, which I think makes sense. Boomers are older and more likely to have health issues.

But I think it’s worth noting also that Gen-Xers were the most stressed overall.  And I think some of that is they’re that classic sandwiched generation. They might be worried about their elderly parents, healthcare costs at the same time that they’re trying to put their own kids through college. 

Mike: Yeah, that makes sense. How do millennials fair?

Ted Rossman: Millennials were not as worried about health. But they’re definitely worried about other stuff. Fifty-eight percent of millennials are losing sleep over money. For example, millennials were also the most likely to be losing sleep over work and relationships with friends.

Clearly, everybody has some stressors going on even if they’re different from different generations.

Mike: Yeah, and I suppose health is something that when you’re feeling invulnerable and you’re younger, it doesn’t bubble to the top maybe.

Ted Rossman: That’s right. Thankfully, not yet. But I think, for all these issues, a lot of planning can help. Budgeting can help. I really think regardless of what you’re struggling with, you need to make a plan.

So often, I think we get paralyzed with worry. But then once we actually start to do something, we immediately start to feel better.

And that was a positive take from this study. We found that about three-quarters of people who were losing sleep are doing something about the issue/s in question. And about two-thirds of them are optimistic that they’ll be able to resolve their problems.

So there is some optimism out there.

Mike: Well, that’s good news, Ted. If anyone in our audience wanted to take a look at the study results, where can they go?

Ted Rossman: We have all this information at BankRate.com, also a lot of helpful information on managing your money, getting out of debt, tracking your credit score and all that good stuff.

Mike: Well, great analysis, Ted. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you and put our finger on the trends that are affecting consumers in the marketplaces that relates to their money.

So, thanks again for joining us on the show today.

Ted Rossman: My pleasure, thank you.


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