People in debt are sacrificing their health to make ends meet.

Americans have a tough choice to make: See a doctor or feed their families.

One-third facing a medical emergency prolong seeing the doctor because they can’t afford the treatment, says a recent survey from Regions Bank. More than 3 in 4 are torn between buying daily necessities like food or paying down their medical debt.

A Regions Bank manager and spokesperson of the survey says ignoring your health can lead to more expensive treatments later.

“Medical events can be traumatic and unpredictable – and the resulting debt can add greater stress to the healing process,” Joye Hehn says. “Being prepared beforehand and knowing how to address medical debt can make a significant difference to staying on track with your finances.”

It’s a tough ask when Americans weren’t prepared for the pandemic or its damage to their finances.

A health crisis begets a medical debt crisis

The survey’s authors point to the outbreak of COVID-19 as one major cause of medical debt. Similar research shows the number of Americans with medical bills increased during the height of the pandemic.

One Regions Bank manager suggests that debt has lingered despite the growing lapse in time.

“During the pandemic, many Americans found themselves without work or insurance coverage, putting a strain on their ability to pay off old medical debt or manage new expenses,” Wendi Boyen said. “Even as the pandemic eases, many still struggle with this debt.”

Regions Bank isn’t the only organization to track how the pandemic and its subsequent inflation are hurting those with medical debt.

Find out: How to Take Control of Healthcare Costs and Avoid Debt

One financial disaster to another

Similar research from shows since the pandemic, twice as many Americans can’t afford $500 in medical debt. In 2021, 40 percent couldn’t pay that amount in medical bills – now it’s up to 80 percent.

To curb record-high inflation rates, the Fed has raised interest rates multiple times this past year. That only makes it harder for people to pay their medical bills and makes them nervous to can take on new ones.

“We tend to think of inflation as annoying instead of dangerous,” President Don Silvestri says. “But inflation means more than higher food and gas prices. It pervades everything we spend money on – including our physical health.” previously reported medical debt makes people three times more likely to experience symptoms like depression and anxiety. All that stress leads to more physical issues too like high blood pressure. It can create a cycle: health problems, bills, stress, then more health problems.

Before that stress leads to greater health risks, know there is help. Call at (800)-810-0989 for a free debt analysis. Our counselors will connect you with the best debt solutions for medical bills.

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About the Author

Gillian Manning

Gillian Manning

Gillian Manning is an AFC® Accredited Financial Counselor, by the AFCPE. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2021 with her bachelor’s degree in journalism. At FAU she served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, the University Press. During her time there, the paper saw an increase in content production, readership, and engagement. Gillian writes for various outlets like the Palm Beach Post, South Florida Gay News, and the Boca Raton Tribune.

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