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