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Poll: Half of Americans worried about medical bankruptcy

Nurses, elected officials and community members hold candles to Nurses Week in Yonkers, N.Y., on May 12. The vigil honored healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/8950a400927af7266896fcf0fd5df3bb/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Nurses, elected officials and community members hold candles to Nurses Week in Yonkers, N.Y., on May 12. The vigil honored healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- About half of Americans in the COVID-19 era fear a health-related incident could drive them into bankruptcy, according to a new survey Tuesday by Gallup and West Health.

Gallup and West Health said 50% of respondents said they're concerned about medical bankruptcy -- a 5% increase from early this year, before the pandemic. That concern rose 12 points among U.S. adults between 18 and 29 and non-White Americans.

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"Dovetailing with the new health-related concerns brought on by the coronavirus outbreak is the economic catastrophe that -- despite the recouping of millions of jobs since May -- persists in form of 28 million people receiving some form of unemployment aid at the end of July," Gallup wrote.

"As such, Americans' concerns about a major health event putting them in bankruptcy, while substantial in early 2019, are likely only intensified today because of the pandemic."

RELATED Poll: COVID-19 has Americans working many more days from home

The study found that 15% of respondents said at least one person in their home currently has medical debt that will not be repaid in the next 12 months.

"Those in households earning less than $40,000 per year are more than four times as likely as those in households earning $100,000 or more to be carrying long-term medical debt (28% vs. 6%, respectively)," Gallup added. "The rate is also about twice as high among self-identified political independents (18%) and Democrats(16%) as among Republicans (8%)."

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More than a quarter of adults said they'd need to borrow to pay a medical bill of just $500. Many others said they would have to go into debt.

RELATED Poll: More in U.S. say COVID-19 is the nation's top problem

Gallup polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults for the survey, which has a margin of error of 4 points.

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