WEDNESDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- One-third of Americans
are in families that are having trouble paying for health care, a
government report released Wednesday shows.
Data for the first six months of 2011 found that one in five
families has difficulty paying medical bills, one in four pays
bills over time and one in 10 can't pay medical bills at all,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
"There are families in this country that are experiencing a financial burden of medical care, and the chance of being in a family experiencing a financial burden of medical care decreases with age," said lead report author Robin Cohen, a statistician in CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
Insurance, public or private, frequently determines whether
families can pay their health care expenses, Cohen noted.
"But even among people with private insurance, about 16 percent had trouble paying medical bills and 6 percent couldn't pay at all," Cohen said.
People over 65 with private health insurance are least likely to
be financially burdened by medical care, while people without
insurance have the highest burden, she said.
Race was another factor linked to financial burden. About 10
percent of blacks and 7 percent of Hispanics had bills they
couldn't pay compared with less than 3 percent of whites.
Other highlights of the report, released March 7, include:
Sara Collins, vice president for affordable health insurance at
the Commonwealth Fund in New York City, said that "this is
consistent with the trends we are seeing."
The number of people without health insurance, now some 50
million, has increased along with rapidly rising health care costs,
In addition, many people have high deductibles and co-pays and
skimpy coverage, Collins said.
"This underscores the reason we need health care reform," she said. "The coverage expansions will be critical in terms of insuring people who don't have health insurance, and helping to make health care affordable."
People without health insurance are likely to put off care until
they are very ill, Collins said.
"We know that people who don't have health insurance get care at about 50 percent of the rate as people with health insurance," she said. "So, if you don't have health insurance you are going to delay care."
Sixty percent of people without insurance delay or avoid going
to the doctor when they are sick because of costs, she added.
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