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Many Americans struggling with medical debt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one in five American households have difficulty paying medical bills. Of those families that struggle with medical, the CDC says that half of the families are unable to pay any of the medical debt. Not surprisingly, lower income families have the most difficulties in servicing medical debt, according that the research.

The massive CDC research is the first time the agency has looked into the issue of medical debt, so the agency has no track record of research with which to compare the new data. However, the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change says that the number of Americans struggling with medical debt has remained fairly steady over the past five years.

Cincinnati bankruptcy lawyers are aware that medical debt can arise at any time, and a family that is managing bills can often be devastated by unexpected medical costs.

The recent CDC study was conducted through the National Health Interview Survey and looked at the first six months of 2011. The survey posed three questions to Americans across the country. The researched divided the medical bill question into three separate areas:

  • Those who have problems paying medical debt
  • Those who are paying medical bills over time
  • Those who are unable to pay medical debts at all

The CDC research revealed that slightly more than 10 percent of respondents said that they had current medical bills and were unable to pay any portion of the debt. More than a quarter of all Americans are on a payment plan and struggling to keep up with the payments over time, according to the CDC.

The prior CSHSC research compared figures from 2007 and 2010. That research indicated that the burden of medical bills remained fairly static during the Great Recession. One of the researchers told the Associated Press that the data surprised the researchers as the unemployment rate and number of uninsured Americans grew by millions between 2007 and 2010.

He said, "As the number of uninsured increased, and there was higher unemployment, you'd expect that more people would report having problems paying medical bills." He and others believe that many Americans reduced medical spending during the recession, by avoiding the doctor, cutting back on prescriptions and avoiding other medically related spending.

Source: Associated Press via Washington Post, "1 in 5 US families say they struggle to pay medical bills; half say they can't pay a cent," March 6, 2012

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