Medical Bill Problems Steady for U.S. Families, 2007-2010

Troubling stats indicate 20% of Americans are still having difficulty paying medical bills.

By Anna Sommers and Peter J. Cunningham

More than one in five Americans were in families reporting problems paying medical bills in 2010—about the same proportion as in 2007,according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).
Given the severe 2007-09 recession, the sluggish economic recovery and health care costs continuing to increase faster than incomes, it is somewhat surprising that the rate of medical bill problems did not increase between 2007 and 2010.
The steady rate of medical bill problems may be a byproduct of decreased use of medical care—both by people who lost jobs and health insurance during the recession and others who cut back on medical care in the face of uncertain economictimes. While problems paying medical bills stabilized in recent years, the proportion of Americans in families with medical bill problems remained significantly higher in 2010 compared with 2003—20.9 percent vs. 15.1 percent. And, in 2010, many people in families with problems paying medical bills continued to experience severe financial consequences, with about two-thirds reporting problems paying for other necessities and a quarter considering bankruptcy.

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