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Survey finds more Americans struggle with medical costs

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Modern Healthcare reports on a biennial survey by the not-for-profit Commonwealth Fund that found a growing number of Americans struggle to pay medical bills and put off healthcare because of cost. The survey also found financial stress from medical debt increased among moderate-income households.

Results from the fourth such survey, conducted in 2007, found that since 2005, an increasing number of adults younger than age 65 said they had medical debts; found it difficult or were unable to pay medical bills; changed spending habits to pay off medical bills; or had debts turned over to collection agencies. Among moderate-income families, with income between $20,000 and $40,000, difficulty with medical bills and debts grew. An estimated 56% struggled to pay for care in 2007 compared with 48% in 2005.

Adults who avoided care—did not fill a prescription, see a specialist, get recommended care or screening, or see a doctor for a medical problem—increased between 2001 and 2007, the Commonwealth Fund reported. An estimated 62% of low-income families, with income below $20,000, put off care because of cost in 2007, compared with 40% in 2001. Among moderate-income households, 58% did not seek care last year, up from 41% six years ago.

An estimated 50 million adults below age 65 had no insurance or lacked coverage during the prior 12 months. That’s comparable to the 28% without coverage surveyed in 2005 but up from 24% of adults who were uninsured at least part of the prior year in 2001, the report said. The telephone survey was conducted between June 2007 and October 2007 in English and Spanish among a nationally representative sample of roughly 3,500 adults. The survey complied responses from approximately 2,600 adults younger than 65.

Full report: Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance Is Burdening Working Families, Commonwealth Fund.

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