Seeing Red: Americans Driven into Debt by Medical Bills

August 10, 2005 | Volume 10

Authors: Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D., Jennifer N. Edwards, Dr.P.H., and Alyssa L. Holmgren

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Overview

New analysis of the 2003 Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey reveals that an estimated 77 million Americans age 19 and older—nearly two of five (37%) adults—have difficulty paying medical bills, have accrued medical debt, or both. Working-age adults incur significantly higher rates of medical bill and debt problems than adults 65 and older, with rates highest among the uninsured. Even working-age adults who are continually insured have problems paying their medical bills and have medical debt. Unpaid medical bills and medical debt can limit access to health care: two-thirds of people with a medical bill or debt problem went without needed care because of cost—nearly three times the rate of those without these financial problems.

Citation

Seeing Red: Americans Driven into Debt by Medical Bills, Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D., Jennifer N. Edwards, Dr.P.H., and Alyssa L. Holmgren, The Commonwealth Fund, August 2005