47% Of Americans Can't Even Come Up With $400 To Cover An Emergency Room Visit

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

If you had to make a sudden visit to the emergency room, would you have enough money to pay for it without selling something or borrowing the funds from somewhere? 

Most Americans may not realize this, but this is something that the Federal Reserve has actually been tracking for several years now.  And according to the Fed, an astounding 47 percent of all Americans could not come up with $400 to pay for an emergency room visit without borrowing it or selling something

Various surveys that I have talked about in the past have found that more than 60 percent of all Americans are living to paycheck to paycheck, but I didn’t realize that things were quite this bad for about half the country.  If you can’t even come up with $400 for an unexpected emergency room visit, then you are just surviving from month to month by the skin of your teeth.  Unfortunately, about half of us are currently in that situation.

Earlier today someone pointed me toward an excellent article in The Atlantic that discussed this, and I have to admit that The Atlantic is one of the last remaining bastions of old school excellence in journalism that you will find in the mainstream media.  Of course I don’t see eye to eye with them on a lot of things philosophically, but there are some really hard working journalists over there.

The article where I found the 47 percent figure comes from The Atlantic, and it is entitled “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans“.  It was authored by Neal Gabler, and he says that he can identify with the 47 percent of Americans that don’t have $400 for an unexpected emergency room visit because he is one of them

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

To me, this is yet more evidence that the middle class in America is dying.

Last year, it was reported that middle class Americans make up a minority of the population for the very first time in our history.

But back in 1971, 61 percent of all Americans lived in middle class households.

So what happened?

Well, the big corporations started shipping millions of good paying manufacturing jobs overseas.  Millions of other good paying jobs were replaced by technology, and the competition for the good jobs that remained became extremely intense.

During the good times, the U.S. economy still created new jobs, but most of those jobs were low paying service jobs.

At this point, a majority of American workers have jobs that would be considered low paying.  In fact, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year according to the Social Security Administration.

And once you account for inflation, the truth is that our incomes have been going down for years.  According to a study that was released by Pew Charitable Trusts, median household income in the United States decreased by 13 percent between 2004 and 2014.

That isn’t “progress” any way that you slice it.

If you go all the way back to 1970, the middle class took home approximately 62 percent of all income in the United States.

Today, that number has fallen to just 43 percent.

So the fact that 47 percent of Americans can’t even pay for an unexpected emergency room visit is not exactly a surprise.  To be honest, a whole host of other surveys have come up with similar numbers.  Here is more from Neal Gabler

A 2014 Bankrate survey, echoing the Fed’s data, found that only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. Two reports published last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found, respectively, that 55 percent of households didn’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income, and that of the 56 percent of people who said they’d worried about their finances in the previous year, 71 percent were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses.

What all of these numbers tell us is that the middle class is disappearing.  I tend to compare it to a game of really bizarre musical chairs.  With each passing month more chairs are being pulled out of the circle, and those members of the middle class that haven’t fallen into poverty yet are just hoping that a chair will still be there for them when the music stops.

Even during the “Obama recovery”, we have seen poverty in America absolutely explode.  In fact, some brand new numbers just came out that are quite startling.  The following comes from another author for The Atlantic named Gillian B. White

Recently, the Brookings Institution published a report looking at the same idea but giving it a different name. The paper, builds on research from the British economist William Beveridge, who in 1942 proposed five types of poverty: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. In modern terms, these could be defined as poverty related to housing, education, income, employment, and healthcare, respectively. Analyzing the 2014 American Community Survey, the paper’s co-authors, Richard Reeves, Edward Rodrigue, and Elizabeth Kneebone, found that half of Americans experience at least one of these types of poverty, and around 25 percent suffer from at least two.

To underscore this point, let me just run five quick facts about the growth of poverty in this country by you…

The number of Americans that are living in concentrated areas of high poverty has doubled since the year 2000.


In 2007, about one out of every eight children in America was on food stamps. Today, that number is one out of every five.


46 million Americans use food banks each year, and lines start forming at some U.S. food banks as early as 6:30 in the morning because people want to get something before the food supplies run out.


The number of homeless children in the U.S. has increased by 60 percent over the past six years.


According to Poverty USA, 1.6 million American children slept in a homeless shelter or some other form of emergency housing last year.

That last number really gets me every time.

How can “the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet” have more than a million homeless children?

This is one of the reasons why I hammer on our ongoing economic collapse over and over and over.  It is affecting real families with real children that have real hopes and real dreams.

This is not the way our country is supposed to work.

It is supposed to be “the land of opportunity”.

It is supposed to be a place where anyone can live “the American Dream”.

But instead it has become an economic wasteland where the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world is being systematically eviscerated.

So no, the U.S. economy is not doing “just fine” – anyone that tries to tell you that lie is simply peddling fiction.

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skinwalker's picture

This used to be why loansharks existed, but the credit card companies put them out of business. Just another example of the corporate leviathan squishing the little guy. 

LykeMe's picture
LykeMe (not verified) skinwalker Apr 21, 2016 8:03 PM

Folks, America is not gonna get better. This is why >>> http://wp.me/p4OZ4v-3z

BurningFuld's picture

Well this is a sure sign that Warren Buffet needs more money.

wee-weed up's picture

Obozo's America...

Full of Free Shit Army members with no money.

Supernova Born's picture

4 hours sitting in any public hospital waiting room in America should be required before eligible to vote.

Most nimrods in the insulated zone have no fucking clue whatever how fucked up things are in urban, immigrant zone America.

Escrava Isaura's picture




47% Of Americans Can't Even Come Up With $400 To Cover An Emergency Room Visit


Follow up Title:

If Wasn’t For State Capitalism 47% Of Wealth Americans Couldn’t Come Up With $100 To Cover An Emergency Room Visit.


Coming Title:

When  State Capitalism Fails, 97% Of Americans Will Go To Emergency Room In Desperation. 


Supernova Born's picture

Fiat allows the US to provide free first world medicine to everyone on the planet forever.

Unless you're a racist "peddling fiction".

Automatic Choke's picture

The problem is that dope is too expensive, so nobody has pocket money for emergencies.

Bernie will get right on it when he gets in office....free dope and free emergency rooms.


AlaricBalth's picture

If everything is fine, why does everyone feel so lousy and angry?

Stuck on Zero's picture

For accuracy the headline should read: "47% of Americans Can't Come up with the $15,000 for an Emergency Room Visit."


TeamDepends's picture

But the 47% CAN come up with a spare kidney.

cheka's picture

no worries, the 53 percent are forced to pay for it


Mr. Bones's picture

I don't remember it being this bad the last time we weren't in a recession.  Even when I was living below the poverty line and subsisting substantially on ramen noodles I could've scraped up $400 without selling something.  It would have hurt, and it would have substantially impacted my already shitty standard of living but I could have done it.  I fear that we Americans are becoming so adverse to even the most minor discomfort that when things really take a turn for the worse people won't be able to deal.

Also, didn't they sell ppaca on this not being a problem anymore?

Taylor's picture

This is Donald Trump's most shocking statement yet,

However the mainstream media isn't saying a word about it!

What are they really trying to cover up?


ZD1's picture



"47% of Americans don't care because what a hospital visit costs because the other 53% are paying are picking up the tab for them."

SilverSphinx's picture

"If everything is fine, why does everyone feel so lousy and angry?"


"everything is fine"

I am beginning to think the elites are mocking us when they say that.

We are being told that we plebs cannot believe our own eyes, ears, mind, experience and heart.

skinwalker's picture

I read once that if you take what the US spends on defense each year, you could build sufficient infrastructure to provide clean drinking water to every person on earth, perpetually. 

Supernova Born's picture

But those people then move to the US and go on the dole.

Wishes are fiat and beggers be riding.

greenskeeper carl's picture

I hate these kinds of comparisons. They miss the point entirely. The point isn't that we shouldn't waste all this money on warfare so that we can spend it on welfare programs instead. The point is that this insane amount of money shouldn't be taxed/borrowed/printed and then spent in the first place.

As far as the rest of the world getting clean drinking water, that's nice and all, but we shouldn't be made to pay for it. If you, personally, want to send your money to Africa to provide clean drinking water, go right ahead, but we shouldn't be forced to pay for that any more than we should be forced to pay for wasteful invasions of foreign countries.

DaveA's picture

Please do cut the defense budget to zero, so that instead of paying taxes, the rich can hire all those unemployed soldiers into their private army, and have enough money left over to provide unlimited clean water for every golf course on Earth!

Chris88's picture

Since government is the antithesis of the market I don't know what "state capitalism" is.  It sound like a term invented by a moron socialist/fascist apologist to divert blame from their own garbage systems.

general ambivalent's picture

Governments developed the market, and also the idea of capitalism. State capitalism simply refers to the state being the single guarantor of 'free contracts' (ex. you can be a member of the soviet or you can find your own way), no dfferent really from oligarchs or Nigerian e-businessmen guaranteeing the 'free contracts'. All these systems rely on mechanized production and mass production of disposable goods from imported resources (and thus a bureaucracy is necessary for capitalism's very functioning), so the idea that capitalism is somehow a human system is a lie.

In the West, capitalism is recognized as a medium of private exchange in which a government has limited legal intervention. But this ignores the global and totalitarian state of modern governance, and as such provides a convenient moral relativity to the liberal state. In its idealized form capitalism frees all individuals by making them sellers (you can be a member of the sellers union or you can find your own way). But this ignores the very basic problem that all humans cannot be sellers as there would be diminishing numbers of buyers and a non-supply of workers. If indeed it requires the selling of labour then capitalism is simply a romanticized form of slavery.

For someone who worships capitalism you seem to know very little about it. Anarcho-capitalism is a foolish concept, as capitalism is a progressive development of the state to level itself and create automation of its functions within the culture and spirit of individual citizens. In other words, capitalism is automatic government, an absolute cultural acceptance of governmental ways. The greatest mistake an anarchist can make is to assume that his ideology banishes authority. In reality there is no equality, absolutely autonomous functioning, nor lack of authority. Freedom is determined by our ability to respond to natural laws and live ideally at both the individual and collective heights of virtue.

Chris88's picture

Governments developed two consenting individuals engaging in a voluntary transaction?  Gee, and here I was thinking that was something called specialization, trade, and basic human interaction.  Yeah, anarcho-capitalism is a foolish concept, but a bunch of bureaucrats who couldn't operate a hot dog cart centrally planning an economy has sure worked wonders throughout history.  The only thing you said that makes any sense is there is no equality - no shit, people are not equal.  I don't see how me voluntarily paying soembody for a good or service is slavery - that person can tell me to get lost, or I can tell them that and go to a competitor.  Slavery sounds more like "Hey, give us 45% of your income or we'll throw you in a cage" - but hey, I'm just spitballing.  Nothing is more apparent than somebody who hasn't worked a day in business (or the real world for that matter).

tmosley's picture

SPOILER ALERT: You don't have to pay hospital bills, especially emergency room bills. Sure, you take a knock to your credit, but that is about all you get.

The point is that most people can't muster $400 for an emergency. Emergency room visits aren't paid up front, so you don't have to pay for service.

Much worse for an "average American" is their car breaking down.

swmnguy's picture

Or furnace going on the fritz, if you live where it gets cold.  Every year here in Minneapolis, a few entire families die when the furnace goes out and they resort to space heaters and the oven for heat.

cheka's picture

electric blankets worked for us....when we were in poor house

ZD1's picture


Hospitals in the U.S. are required to treat anyone who comes through their doors.

Obama's FSA and illegals know this and hospital emergency rooms are full of them.


Mr. Universe's picture

People would have a lot more money if not for the constant onslaught of advertising and "beneficial" tech.  Back before your $200 a month cable bill TV had only 3-5 channels but it was FREE. Now you pay 2 bills a month for 300 hundred channels of CRAP? Also EVERYONE now needs a phone, on their persons at all times. Not just any phone but a soul sucking "smart" phone that smartly returns another ~$100 or so a month to the masters. Add in car payments, Pro-sports tickets, designer tennis shoes, eating out 3 times a week, no wonder you can't afford a gardener for the McMansion (that you also can't afford).  


techpriest's picture

It's not advertising's fault. I have done marketing; advertising only works if it brings out something that the person is already thinking. IOW, someone wants a trendy smartphone, and you make an offer right when they are thinking about it. If they aren't interested, your ad will only be an annoyance.

The real problem is a lack of self control, and the entitled "I deserve it!" mentality. With a little willingness to be creative and sacrifice on the front end, it's possible to avoid 90% of the payments you just mentioned. Hard times will re-impose that self-control whether Boobus Americanus wants it or not.

techpriest's picture

Seems at least one person hasn't figured out that it's better to go through a couple of sub-$1,000 beater cars that do little beyond driving and are only good for parts when you're done with them (which I did), or doing a combined commute and napping under your desk from 6 AM - 7 AM for a few months (which I also did) to finally be able to break the cycle of having a car payment.

You don't need a TV.

Most places in the US have acceptable Internet for $25 a month, and one broke colleague uses Skype in place of a phone.

Solutions exist. Making friends and changing priorities are going to be a necessity in the not too distant future.

HRH of Aquitaine's picture
HRH of Aquitaine (not verified) Supernova Born Apr 21, 2016 9:08 PM

We know. It is also the reason we stay far, far away from such places.

Arthur Schopenhauer's picture

Piss off.

"Are 97 of the nation's 100 poorest counties in red states?"



skinwalker's picture

Red state/blue state is a misleading system of classification, as most states are 'red' when you subtract the 2-3 largest cities. 

Arthur Schopenhauer's picture

If you cared to read the link I provided, it says: ... "and that Republican-leaning states get more in federal dollars than they pay in taxes (also Mostly True)."

dexter_morgan's picture

Why though - military bases? Texas, NC, , for example, lots of fed dough goes there but not mainly to FSA, mainly to militarty.

skinwalker's picture

Plus retirees. Red states are chock full of em cuz they're generally cheaper to live in. 

dexter_morgan's picture

that is "mostly true" I would say. :-)

Arthur Schopenhauer's picture

The only reason I commented in the first place was because everybody wants to turn in this into some political crap. This site is full of people who always like to make continual inferences that if someone isn't a Republican, they are a lazy worthless moocher.

dexter_morgan's picture

Plenty of those lazy worthless moochers in the republican party surely enough. It's a human problem more than a political problem it seems. I think perhaps it's the 'entitlement mentality' that is so prevalent, and cultivated so ardently, within the democratic party that people object to. Just my opinion. 

divingengineer's picture

What's worse, the lazy loser who gets $400 a month of welfare,  or the shitheel banker that gets billions of tax dollars?

cheka's picture

is that like a little bit pregnant?

dexter_morgan's picture

Kinda the same. The volume of $400/mo folks over the years probably roughly equals the banker bailouts. Not a matter of which is worse, neither is acceptable, at least at the rate we currently have. 

ZD1's picture



If they are a Democrat, they almost always are a member of the FSA and a lazy worthless moocher.

Look at Obama, Biden, Hillary, Bernie and most Democrats--they all have been mooching off of big government their entire lives.

At least Trump came to politics late in life after building a successful business empire.

rehypothecator's picture

Not everyone who is poor is part of the FSA, as there are some poor people who don't wish to go on the dole.  There might well be a racial component to this aspect.  Furthermore, some of the poorest are in coal mining country - because Obama desired to destroy that industry and has been somewhat successful in doing so. Saying that they're poor because they vote (R) would be reversing cause and effect in this case.  

Adahy's picture

There are some "poor" people who down right REFUSE to go on the dole, and yet still live a comfortable, albeit busy, life.
Minimize expenses and use what the Creator provides to meet more and more needs.  When you do that, money, politics, and all of that other bullshit matter less and less every day.  It's downright peaceful.

greenskeeper carl's picture

Not that Snyder is wrong about any of this, but how many times is he going to write this same article??

SixIsNinE's picture

with 23,000+ click-views as I write, I'd guess Mike will keep churning them out indefinitely.... he's got a niche and he' sticking to it !

Hitlery_4_Dictator's picture

Like I give a shit about brokeass Obama voters. 

divingengineer's picture

 desperation and hopelessness looking for an outlet