Trade-Offs Getting Tougher: Problems Paying Medical Bills Increase for U.S. Families, 2003-2007

Source: Peter J. Cunningham, Center for Studying Health Systems Change, Tracking Report No. 21, September 2008

About 57 million Americans were in families with problems paying medical bills in 2007–an increase of 14 million people since 2003, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Problems paying medical bills increased for both nonelderly insured and uninsured people. Although the rate of medical bill problems is much higher for uninsured people, most people with medical bill problems–42.5 million–had insurance coverage. About 2.2 million people with medical bill problems were in families that filed for bankruptcy as a result of their medical bills, and a much larger number reported other financial consequences, such as problems paying for other necessities and having to borrow money. The increase in medical bill problems–especially among insured people–is the main reason why more people reported unmet medical needs because of cost in 2007 than in 2003.

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