Financial Burden of Medical Care Affects One in Three

More than one in five poor or near-poor adults younger than 65 have bills they are unable to pay

WEDNESDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- In the first half of 2011, one in three individuals was in a family that experienced the financial burden of medical care in the United States, according to the results of the National Health Interview Survey published March 7 by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Robin A. Cohen, Ph.D., from the NCHS in Hyattsville, Md., and colleagues used the survey data to investigate the financial burden of medical care among the U.S. population.

The investigators found that, in the first six months of 2011, one in three individuals was in a family that experienced the financial burden of medical care; and the families of one in five, one in four, and one in 10 individuals experienced difficulty paying medical bills, paid medical bills over time, and could not pay the medical bills, respectively. The likelihood of being in such a family decreased with age: 24 percent of children aged 0 to 17 years, 21 percent of adults aged 18 to 64, 10 percent of adults aged 65 to 74, and 7 percent of adults aged 75 and older. Poor or near-poor adults younger than 65 were more likely to have difficulty paying bills and have bills that could not be paid, with more than one in five having bills they were unable to pay. Poor or near-poor adults aged 65 and older were more than three times as likely as those who were not poor to be in a family that had experienced difficulty paying medical bills in the past year.

"One in three persons was in a family experiencing financial burden of medical care," the authors write.

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