Affordable, quality health care. For everyone.

Seeing Red: Americans Driven into Debt by Medical Bills


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.

Publication Details

Publication Date: August 1, 2005

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


Michelle M. Doty
Vice President, Survey Research and Evaluation, The Commonwealth Fund