A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

New National Data on Medical Debt

New National Data on Medical Debt

August 13, 2005

A new issue brief from the Commonwealth Fund includes valuable new insights into the extent to which medical debt is becoming a pervasive national problem.

CF reports that "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."

Health Care For All has been working on the issue from the perspective of hospital billing and collection practices. Briefly, how well or how poorly you get treated when you have unpaid hospitals bills and no way to pay depends on what hospital you use. HCFA's Melissa Shannon has been working on this issue and we are hoping to issue our own Massachusetts report in the fall. For more info, contact Melissa at shannon@hcfama.org