Fewer struggling to pay medical bills—surprise or not—but millions still set back

An encouragingly smaller subgroup of Americans is straining to pay medical bills now than were doing so in 2011—19.7% then vs. 14.2% now. However, the latter percentage is still a serious concern, as it may translate to more than 1.8 million households forced to choose between healthcare and other pressing needs.

The figures come from a data brief released this week by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.  

Other key findings as laid out in the report:

  • In 2018, the percentage of persons who were in families having problems paying medical bills was higher among females (14.7%), children (16.2%), and non-Hispanic black persons (20.6%) compared with males, adults and other racial and ethnic groups, respectively.
  • Among persons under age 65, those who were uninsured were more likely than those with Medicaid or private coverage to have problems paying medical bills.
  • Among adults aged 65 and over, those with Medicare and Medicaid, and Medicare only, were more likely than those with Medicare Advantage or private coverage to have problems paying medical bills.

Citing data previously published from the National Health Interview Survey, authors Amy Cha, PhD, MPH, and Robin Cohen, PhD, point out that major medical bills piling up for one member of a family tend to weaken the entire household.

“People who are in families with problems paying medical bills may experience serious financial consequences, such as having problems with paying for food, clothing or housing, and filing for bankruptcy,” they write.

To access the full report, click here