Fewer families report having trouble paying medical bills
by Ralph B. Davis
Fewer American families are having problems paying medical bills, but 20 percent of them, particularly those without insurance and those that are “near poor” but not “poor,” still struggle with health costs, says a study released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The report says 54.2 million people, or 20.3 percent of families headed by someone under the age of 65, had difficulty covering medical expenses in the first half of 2012. During the first half of 2011, 21.7 percent of families, or 57.8 million people, found it difficult to pay medical bills.
Hispanics (25.2 percent) and blacks (27.9 percent) were more likely than whites (20.1 percent) or Asians (10.3 percent) to report trouble paying their medical bills, says the report. It says families with incomes from 100 to 199 percent of the poverty line were most likely to have difficulty paying medical bills, probably because those below the poverty line qualify for Medicaid. State income limits vary; in Kentucky, income-based Medicaid is available to those with incomes less than 70 percent of the poverty line.
Those classified as “poor” are below the poverty line, while the “near-poor” had incomes of 100 to 199 percent of the poverty line.
Among families with insurance, 14 percent of those with private insurance and 25.6 percent with Medicaid or other public insurance had similar problems paying bills in the first half of 2012, which represents a 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent decrease from 2011, respectively.
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