Survey: 79 Millions Americans Have Medical Bill or Medical Debt Problems

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<p>In the face of the economic downturn, American families are confronting harsh financial realities--sluggish growth in wages and income, rising prices for gas and food, soaring health care costs, and loss of adequate health coverage. Many are struggling to pay their medical bills and have accumulated medical debt over time. A <a href="/publications/fund-reports/2008/aug/losing-ground--how-the-loss-of-adequate-health-insurance-is-burdening-working-families--8212-finding
">new report</a> from The Commonwealth Fund finds 41 percent of working-age Americans--or 72 million people--have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt, up from 34 percent in 2005. In addition, 7 million adults age 65 and over are dealing with these issues, for a total of 79 million adults with medical bill or debt problems.<br><br>These findings--and many others--are drawn from survey data collected over four years and available in two new Fund publications: <a href="/publications/fund-reports/2008/aug/losing-ground--how-the-loss-of-adequate-health-insurance-is-burdening-working-families--8212-finding
">Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance is Burdening Working Families</a> and <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2008/aug/seeing-red--the-growing-burden-of-medical-bills-and-debt-faced-by-u-s--families
">Seeing Red: The Growing Problem of Medical Debt and Bills</a>.<br><br>Problems accessing and affording needed care are widespread, the survey finds. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults under age 65, or 116 million people, had medical bill problems or debt, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time, or were underinsured (i.e., had insurance coverage that does not adequately protect them from high medical expenses).<br><br>In this election year, voters are voicing their dissatisfaction with the health care system and looking for policymakers to forge ahead on solutions. "The current economic slowdown makes it even more urgent for a new Administration to make universal and affordable health insurance a high priority in 2009, to ensure that no American suffers financial hardship as a result of serious illness," says Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.</p>