California residents accumulated the third-highest amount of medical debt in the U.S. last year, according to a recent study by NerdWallet,Payers & Providers reports.
NerdWallet researchers analyzed data from CMS and other federal agencies collected between 2010 and 2013 (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 10/9).
The analysis also included results from a seven-question survey conducted by Harris Interactive between Aug. 13 and Aug. 15. It polled 2,016 adults ages 18 and older (NerdWallet study, October 2014).
The study found that California residents incurred the third-highest amount of medical debt, behind New York and Texas.
According to the study, the state’s medical debt is high in part because many patients are receiving inaccurate bills (Payers & Providers, 10/9). For example, audits found that:
Among 490 claims at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, 83.5% contained billing errors and the hospital overcharged Medicare because of the errors by 40.2%;
Among 301 claims at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, 76.4% contained errors and the hospital overcharged Medicare by 32.8%; and
Among 224 claims at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, 71.9% contained errors and the hospital overcharged Medicare by 39.1%.
The study predicted that about 20% of adults in the U.S. will be contacted this year by bill collectors over medical debt.
To reduce medical debt, the researchers recommended that consumers:
Take advantage of no-cost state support for contesting medical bills;
Hire medical bill advocates; and
Self-audit their medical bills for errors (NerdWallet study, October 2014).