Medical Bills too Expensive

The proportion of working-age Americans who have medical bill problems or who are paying off medical debt climbed from 34 percent to 41 percent between 2005 and 2007, bringing the total to 72 million, according to recent survey findings from The Commonwealth Fund. In addition, seven million adults age 65 and over also had problems paying medical bills, for a total of 79 million adults with medical bill problems or medical debt.

Data come from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey (2007), a national telephone survey conducted in 2007 among a nationally representative sample of 3,501 adults age 19 and older living in the continental United States.

In a report about the survey findings, the authors describe how working-age adults are becoming more exposed to the rising costs of health care, either because they have lost insurance through their jobs or because they are paying more out of pocket for their health care. This combination of factors, along with sluggish growth in average family incomes, is contributing to problems with medical bills and cost-related delays in getting needed health care.

The report finds that in 2007, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults under age 65, or 116 million people, had medical bill problems or debt, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time, or were underinsured - insured but had high out-of-pocket medical expenses or deductibles relative to income. While the increase in problems paying medical bills or carrying unpaid medical bills cuts across income brackets, low and moderate income families are burdened the most.

"While gas and food prices are increasing and home values are declining, the rise in health care costs is surpassing income growth and fewer people have adequate insurance. As a result, working people are struggling to pay their bills and accruing medical debt", said Sara Collins, Commonwealth Fund Assistant Vice President, and the study's lead author.

MEDICA.de; Source: Commonwealth Fund