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Financial Strain from Health Care Costs a Growing Concern for Americans

In Health on October 7, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Financial Strain from Health Care Costs a Growing Concern for Americans
October 5, 2006: 10:00 a.m. EST
Aflac-Commissioned Survey Reveals Financial Worries – Even Bankruptcy – Caused by Health Care Costs

COLUMBUS, Ga., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ — One in three Americans (32 percent) say they are concerned that they will someday need to declare bankruptcy due to unexpected medical bills, according to a recent survey commissioned by Aflac, the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States. Additionally, the survey found that nearly all Americans (89 percent) say the rising cost of health care is among the most pressing concerns facing Americans today. The nationwide survey randomly polled 2,091 Americans age 18 and older in September 2006.

Aflac’s survey revealed that increasing health care costs in the United States have a significant impact on Americans’ everyday lives, forcing many people to delay medical care or tap into their savings to pay expenses.

“There is a direct correlation between the continuous increase of health care costs and financial anxiety,” said Paul Amos, executive vice president and COO, Aflac. “It is important for Americans to educate themselves on the various health care and insurance options available and to create a financial safety net to help with the protection of their physical and financial well- being, and that of their families for the long term.”

Increasing costs in health care are forcing many Americans to go without care. The number of Americans with major medical insurance has decreased compared to one year ago, dropping from 81 percent in 2005 to 74 percent in 2006. And the perils of being uninsured are apparent. Three-quarters (74 percent) of survey respondents without any type of medical insurance report that they have considered not going to the doctor because of the costs they may incur, while only 37 percent of those with medical insurance reported doing so.

The threat of financial strain and even bankruptcy due to medical costs is a legitimate concern for many Americans. A 2001 Harvard study found that illness and medical bills caused half of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001 and estimates that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans each year. Alarmingly, the American Bankruptcy Institute states that three-fourths of the people who file for bankruptcy because of medical debts have health insurance when the medical problem begins.

– 82 percent of respondents believe that many Americans will need to dip into their savings to cover health care costs. – Eight in ten (80 percent) believe that growing medical and health care expenses will make retirement living less comfortable in the future. – 37 percent of respondents in the Baby Boomer generation are concerned that they will someday need to declare bankruptcy due to unexpected medical bills, compared to 29 percent of Gen Y, 33 percent of Gen X, and 25 percent of Post-War generation respondents.

Although Americans seem to know the steps they should take to prepare for an unexpected medical emergency, few actually follow the advice, causing a gap between belief and actual behavior.

– 83 percent of respondents agree that all Americans should put aside money specifically to cover future health care expenses. – Fewer than four in ten (37 percent) respondents have actually put aside money specifically to cover future health care expenses. – Nearly half (46 percent) report that they only could cover up to three months of living expenses if they were not receiving a paycheck.

The majority (85 percent) of respondents acknowledged that in addition to caring for their spouses and children, more Americans will have to deal with the financial strain of caring for elderly parents. As the sandwich generation (those sandwiched between caring for aging parents, adult children, and/or grandchildren) grows, apprehension about this strain is understandable.

“Individuals caring for both aging and young generations face many daunting scenarios, such as caring for a spouse or partner, an aging parent, a sick child, or in the most difficult situations, more than one at once,” said Amos. “Proper medical coverage, financial savings and Aflac insurance can help provide a financial cushion.”

According to the Aflac survey, one in three (33 percent) of Americans have used vacation time to care for a family member and more than a quarter (28 percent) have lost wages because they stayed home to care for a sick child or elderly parent.

– Two-thirds (67 percent) of those with children under 18 at home have missed work to take care of them. – One-quarter (26 percent) of Americans have missed work to care for an elderly parent. About Aflac

Media contacts: Laura Kane Aflac Incorporated (706)-596-3493 lkane@aflac.com Mechell Clark Aflac Incorporated (706)-243-8004 meclark@aflac.com

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