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Thu May 29, 2014, 06:07 AM

Medical expenses, stagnant wages mean trouble for American employees

2014 Aflac WorkForces Report

American workers are at the edge of a financial cliff

The economy is showing signs of improving, but Americansí bank accounts are in need of resuscitation: Put simply, anemic pay raises combined with sharp increases in out-of-pocket health care costs have creditors knocking on many consumersí doors.

* 66 percent of employees would not be able to adjust to the large financial costs associated with a serious injury or illness.
* 13 percent of workers are currently dealing with high medical bills.
* 49 percent of employees have less than $1,000 on hand to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses.
* 53 percent of workers would need to borrow from a 401(k) and/or use a credit card to cover unexpected medical costs.
* 8 percent say high medical bills have hindered their ability to save.
* 10 percent say high medical costs have negatively affected their credit scores.
* 13 percent have been contacted by collection agencies about outstanding medical bills.

Comment by Don McCanne of PNHP: A well functioning health care system should make all appropriate health care accessible to everyone, and paying for the system should not lead to financial insecurity. The sector of health care financing that the Affordable Care Act was designed to protect was employer-sponsored coverage, based on the belief that this was the sector that was functioning well. Yet the 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report shows that this sector often is not providing the financial security that patients need.

We should quit trying to finance health care though a multitude of private and public plans that apply to individuals based on their continually evolving personal circumstances. That approach creates tremendous costly and wasteful administrative inefficiencies. Worse, even what are supposedly the best programs - employer-sponsored health plans - too often fail to provide the financial security that patients want and need.

Medical bill related financial insecurity would disappear for everyone if we would replace our current fragmented financing system with a single payer national health program that included first dollar coverage. Since it would use progressive financing, each of us would be able to afford it.

This is a simple concept. We donít need the Aflac duck to explain it to us.

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