Problems Paying Medical Bills Among Persons Under Age 65: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-June 2016

Questions for Robin Cohen, Ph.D., Health Statistician and Lead Author on “Problems Paying Medical Bills Among Persons Under Age 65: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-June 2016

Q: What do you think is the most significant finding in your new study?

RC: I think the key finding in this report is that between 2015 and the first 6 months of 2016, there was little change in the percentage of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills.


Q: How have trends for families having problems paying medical bills in the United States changed in 2016 since you began examining this issue?

RC: We’ve noticed a continuing drop in those experiencing difficulties making their medical bill payments. The number of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills has decreased from 56.5 million in 2011 to 43.8 million in the first 6 months of 2016.


Q: Is paying for health insurance premiums considered a medical bill in your study?

RC: Premiums are not considered a medical bill in our study. Medical bills include bills for doctors, dentists, hospitals, therapists, medication, equipment, nursing home, or home care.


Q: What are the trends among race and ethnicity groups who are having problems paying medical bills this year and compared over time?

RC: We’ve observed a number of trends among different groups over time. All race and ethnicity groups studied in the report saw decreases in the percentage of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills between 2011 and the first 6 months of 2016. Within each year from 2011 through 2016, non-Hispanic Asian persons were the least likely to be in families having problems paying medical bills.


Q: What is the take-home message of your report?

RC: I think the take-home message from this research is the story the data offers about American families–that among persons under age 65, one in six persons is in a family having problems paying medical bills.

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