100 Million Americans Have Medical Debt

100 Million Americans Have Medical Debt

The Pentagon
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Thursday, June 16, 2022

Good evening. The House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection held another public hearing today, offering evidence that former President Donald Trump was told that his plan to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election results was illegal but pressured Pence to do it anyway.

Here’s what else is going on as await Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Senate Adds $45 Billion to Biden’s Record Defense Budget

President Joe Biden has proposed a record $813 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2023, but a key Senate committee is making it clear that lawmakers intend to spend a lot more than that next year.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved a roughly $45 billion increase in the defense spending total for 2023, pushing its version of the National Defense Authorization Act to a total of $847 billion. (The committee does not have jurisdiction over roughly $10 billion in defense spending that is included in the president’s budget request, so the totals don’t quite match up.)

Republicans have been pushing for a big spending increase in 2023, looking for a 3% to 5% bump over last year’s total of $768 billion, plus enough to cover the rate of inflation. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top-ranking Republican on the committee, which is naming the bill for him in his final year in office, said he was pleased with the result. “It’s everything I hoped for,” he said.

Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) told Politico that the extra money was intended to make up for purchasing power lost to inflation, as well as to give additional funds to the Department of Defense to cover the cost of providing extensive military aid to Ukraine.

What’s next: The Senate and the House will have to hammer out a final topline for the 2023 NDAA, which authorizes but does not appropriate defense spending (the latter happens via a separate bill). The House Armed Services Committee plans to mark up its version of the NDAA next week, and although chair Adam Smith (D-WA) has indicated that he supports the White House budget, he also said this week that an increase now seems likely. “In the short term, we're just going to try to pass the bill and I'm certain that there will be an amendment offered to increase the defense budget,” Smith said Wednesday.

The bottom line: Another major bump for defense spending, with the GOP leading the way. “This marks the second budget of the Biden administration, and the second year in a row that Senate Democrats have joined Republicans to add billions to the request,” says Politico’s Connor O’Brien. “Despite a progressive wing that has vowed to cut defense spending, the 50-50 split in the Senate means that the majority can’t pass the NDAA without Republican help, which gives the GOP leverage to force higher budgets.”

100 Million Americans Have Medical Debt: Poll

More than four in 10 American adults — or more than 100 million people in total — say they are carrying medical or dental debt, according to a new nationwide poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll found that 24% of those surveyed said they have medical or dental bills that are past due or that they can’t pay, while 21% said they are paying of such debt over time and 17% said they have outstanding loans they used to pay medical or dental bills. A similar percentage said they are paying off credit card charges used to pay for medical or dental care, and 10% say they owe a family member or friend after borrowing money to pay for care.

“The likelihood of having health care debt is not evenly distributed. Uninsured adults, women, Black and Hispanic adults, parents, and those with lower incomes are especially likely to say they have health care-related debt,” the report says. “Notably, one of the most common types of bills leading to health care debt for older adults is dental care, likely because traditional Medicare does not provide dental coverage (though some beneficiaries in private Medicare Advantage plans do have dental coverage, with the scope varying widely).”

By contrast, younger adults were more likely to say that their health care debt resulted from emergency care, lab fees or doctor visits.

About half of all adults with medical debt owe less than $2,500, according to the survey, though the KFF report notes that health care debt does not have to be large for people to have trouble paying it off. Nearly one in five people carrying health care debt (18%) said they don’t believe that will ever be able to pay it off. Nearly 80% of those with health care debt reported skipping or delaying care or medications due to the cost.

The poll also found that 57% of adults have had medical or dental debt over the past five years. About half of those surveyed said they would be unable to pay an unexpected $500 medical bill without borrowing money.

The survey of 2,375 adults was conducted February 25 through March 20. Its margin of error is 3 percentage points.

The bottom line: “Debt is no longer just a bug in our system. It is one of the main products,” Dr. Rishi Manchanda, who served on the board of the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, told Kaiser Health News. “We have a health care system almost perfectly designed to create debt.”

Read more at the Kaiser Family Foundation or NPR.

Quote of the Day: Pelosi Says There’s Still a Chance

“It’s alive. I would say that.”

– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), telling reporters at a news conference Thursday that negotiations are ongoing over Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill containing climate programs, social spending and tax changes. Pelosi made clear that the fate of the bill now depends on the Senate after the House last year passed its own ill-fated version of the plan. “Reconciliation is a Senate matter. We passed our bill, we made our views known. And that is a closely held negotiation on the Senate side,” Pelosi said.

Number of the Day: 1

Only one of the 50 states did not preorder doses of Covid-19 vaccines for children under five years old. You can probably guess which state it is: Florida. "I would say we are affirmatively against the COVID vaccine for young kids," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, told reporters Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are safe and effective in children as young as six months old. Those vaccines could be made available within days.

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