37% of Americans Cannot Afford a Surprise Medical Bill of $100

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Breaking News: Health care is expensive.

Yeah, and the sky is blue. (Are you rolling your eyes at me right now?)

OK, so this isn’t breaking news. In fact, it’s a painful reality that many of us are reminded of every day as we field the hundredth phone call from collections.

But what is news is just how unprepared Americans are for dealing with unexpected medical bills — even ones as small as $100.

Some Pretty Scary Numbers

A new survey from Ipsos for health care startup Amino revealed that 37% of Americans say they would be unable to afford a medical bill higher than $100.

When the bill jumps to $500, a full 52% agree they would not have sufficient funds to cover it.

Obviously, as the cost climbs, so do the percentages: Seventy-seven percent say they couldn’t pay $2,000 for an unexpected charge — and considering the median cost for something as common as a broken arm is $1,100, medical debt seems inevitable for most Americans.

Expect the Unexpected

And while we know medical bills are expensive and we know that not many people are able to cover the cost outright, this all points to a bigger issue.

Of those polled, about half say they have received a medical bill they did not have funds set aside to cover.

We call them “unexpected” bills, but the truth is, they’re not really all that surprising. We’re not invincible — health care is going to come up at some point. Still, 54% of those surveyed say they budget no more than $50 per month for medical care.

And while there are strategies available to take care of these medical bills, like crowdfunding or arguing your way out of it, they don’t always work.

But here? Here’s where an emergency savings account comes in.

Having an emergency savings fund is a good idea regardless, but in the case of an unexpected medical bill, it can make all the difference.

And I know — saving money is difficult. But our mantra around here? Start somewhere.

Even if you open an account with just $5, your extra pennies will add up quickly. Start with this month-by-month guide to saving your first $1,000. Then, once you’ve created your safety net, check out these tips for building your savings account even more.

And in the meantime, read up on these strategies for saving money on your medical bills.

Your Turn: Have you ever been confronted with a medical bill you couldn’t pay?

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.