Why Medical Debt Concerns Outpace Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Concerns

As the country awaits official word from the Biden administration on its student loan debt relief policy, I’ve been thinking a lot about another type of debt — the inability to pay medical bills. It’s a struggle for one in five Americans, and that includes people who have health insurance.

The burden of medical debt and paying for nursing care appears poised to take on the debt of student loans. College might be optional these days, but worrying about your health isn’t. In just a few short years, long COVID has disabled about 23 million Americans. Long Covid is bringing new awareness – and identity – to a growing population living with chronic illness in this world. Some have called it a mass disability event with long ramifications, experts say we can’t even fathom it yet.

Research shows that not having agency in financial decisions is a heavy burden and one that keeps people from doing their best. We’ve known this for years, but the pandemic has shed a harsh light on the issue. one to learn done a decade ago estimated that if a company could reach 25 employees and help them focus less on finances during work hours, the company could see about $20,000 a year worth of productivity gains. Other Healthcare company survey found that people are more concerned about the cost of their healthcare than they are about a serious illness. And that was 2018 – the old days. Recently, as Twitter users often do, a Twitter user pinpointed the problem. The tweet read: If you’re middle class and want to know what it’s like to be poor try Long Covid.

What is the solution? And how can companies help workers who have medical debt or are struggling to pay for health-related expenses? Health care and lifestyle were once the focus of companies. They still are. But now there’s a second priority, which is dealing with long-term illness and disability. One in four Americans (26%), whether or not they would describe themselves as such, is living with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are steps Americans can take to have meaningful conversations about investing in our own health and dealing with medical debt. Research shows that to be successful, these discussions should include people with real life experience, medical experts and business leaders.

1. know the numbers

How big is the problem of medical debt compared to student loan debt? According to a recent government, an estimated 23 million people are potentially affected by long-term COVID, which has put about 1 million people out of work report. Many essential workers are still exposed to Covid-19 because they have no choice but to go to work, putting their families and health at risk. The second-highest number of people with what the CDC calls a functional disability have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. The supreme functional handicap. Not every long Covid patient fits the CDC’s description of disabilities, but they do fit the description of disabilities as set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows workers to make accommodations that help them keep a job or to be hired for a job do it productively and maintain their health.

To put all of these long-haul numbers in perspective, the numbers are half those of people (48 million) who have racked up student loan debt, but these numbers include decades of loans. (They also signed on the dotted line to take that risk, unlike those who fell ill during the pandemic). Average Student loan debt owed per borrower is estimated to be between $28,000 and 37,000 depending on the research you consult. And the average person between the ages of 34 and 45 owes more than $100,000 in credit. The average medical debt of long Covid patients has yet to be counted. I suspect it will be just as unsustainable.

2. Understand the stigma surrounding debt in general

You may recall that at the time, presidential candidate Biden suggested he wanted to help students by canceling $10,000 per person on student loans because young people were overburdened by debt and the outbreak of the pandemic. Before this announcement, I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many friends and colleagues admit how silly they thought they carried a massive amount of student debt. It has affected their marriages, their home-buying plans, and even their ability to lease or buy a car.

Adjust your thinking about what disability is and how it affects people’s lives. Disability is neither tragic nor burdensome. Podcast Producers at Death Sex & Money created a map of people willing to share their student loan secrets with the world. I would like to see the same type of medical debt card. Like student debt, facing an emergency medical decision or having a chronic physical or mental illness is financially and emotionally intense.

That tweet I mentioned – if you’re middle class and want to know what it’s like to be poor, try Long Covid – has been ringing in my ears for months. My own experience of getting an as-yet-named disease, probably long COVID, possibly another chronic condition like fibromyalgia, has been humbling. For months I was horrified and ashamed of what could happen financially. In many ways, I still am as I read weekly new accounts of how long Covid can affect my body.

3. Make financial wellbeing training available to all workers. Talking about medical care and how people incur medical debt can improve understanding of disability. At work, opportunities to interview employees or provide access to financial advisors on medical debt can build trust and bring resources and peace of mind to workers. Even in confidential situations, conversations can broaden the lens through which leaders understand historical discrimination and inequities in healthcare. As a leader or benefit administrator, hearing the stories of people who have had to make medical choices based on finances or have had to settle for no care at all will change the way you work in 2023. “Honest conversations create ways to improve ethnic diversity [and disability inclusion] in health and social research, explains the National Institute for Health and Nursing Research in a recent issue of their journal NIH Record.

4. Seek help and educate yourself

Entrepreneurs like me know that every day may or may not be a work day. In the past, I’ve learned to take psychic days off, even when it was financially risky. I had to stay healthy to be good. Now, with a chronic illness, I had no choice but to stop working altogether. Not only did the bills keep showing up, but dealing with the paperwork and phone calls and finding doctors to cover my insurance became a full-time job. And yes, I recognize my privilege. I’m white, live in an area that’s easy to navigate when sick, and have a medical research background. For several months I hosted a personal shame athon. Will I feel alright today, how long can I go? Will I meet the deadline? I did. I’m still struggling, but many like me have it much worse. That SBA offers resources for small businesses, including a new series of webinars on cost and inflation management. people with disabilities also find resources at USA.gov. Also seek local help from innovation hubs and networking groups and learn more about the movement to empower people with long Covid and other chronic illnesses via foundations and podcasts including a very helpful show. Away from Kilterwhich focused on medical disabilities for the entire month of July.

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