What We’re Reading: Unpaid Medical Debt; COVID-19 and Hypertension; SNAP Work Requirement Changes


About 17 million middle-class Americans have unpaid medical bills; more than 1 in 5 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 developed high blood pressure; work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to begin in September.

Middle-Class Americans Most Likely to Have Unpaid Medical Bills

A recent report reveals that about 23.5% of middle-class individuals who make between $50,000 and $100,000 annually have unpaid medical bills, while 22% of those with lower incomes face a similar situation, according to Axios. Among individuals with higher incomes who generally have better health insurance coverage, however, the rate of medical debt is just 13%. This trend persists across most age groups, except for those 65 years and older who qualify for Medicare. Additionally, the prevalence of medical debt varies among racial and ethnic groups, with higher rates among Black and Hispanic middle-class individuals compared with their counterparts with lower and higher incomes.

COVID-19 Increases Risk of High Blood Pressure

Findings from a study published in Hypertension that analyzed the medical records of over 45,000 patients with COVID-19 and nearly 14,000 patients with influenza in New York City reveal that more than 1 in 5 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 developed hypertension 6 months after their viral infection, despite having no prior history of high blood pressure, according to CNN. The study suggests that COVID-19 may increase the risk of hypertension, potentially leading to a significant public health concern due to the large number of individuals affected by the virus. However, the exact mechanisms by which COVID-19 may trigger new-onset high blood pressure are still unclear and require further research.

Work Requirements Coming to SNAP Benefits in September

Changes are coming to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, affecting able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) aged 50 to 54 years, according to The Hill. Starting in September, ABAWDs in this age group will need to meet work requirements to qualify for SNAP benefits, with the age requirement to gradually increase to 54 years by October 1, 2024. However, there are exemptions for several groups, including homeless individuals, veterans, and young adults who aged out of foster care. Furthermore, state agencies administering SNAP benefits will have reduced discretion in granting exemptions, with the new requirements set to expire on October 1, 2030.

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