Problems Paying Medical Bills, 2018

Questions for Amy Cha, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Problems Paying Medical Bills, 2018,”

Q: What was the significance of studying persons in families having problems paying medical bills?

AC: Previously published data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that in 2017 one in seven persons under age 65 was in a family having problems paying medical bills. Persons who are in families with problems paying medical bills may also experience serious financial consequences, such as difficulties paying for food and housing, or filing for bankruptcy.


Q: How did the data vary by gender, race and age groups?

AC: The percentage of persons who were in families having problems paying medical bills was higher among females, children aged 0-17 years, and non-Hispanic blacks than among males, adults, and other racial and ethnic groups, respectively.


Q: Was there a specific finding in the data that surprised you?

AC: We were surprised that almost 30% of uninsured children and 27% of uninsured adults (aged 18-64) were in families having problems paying medical bills.


Q: How did you obtain this data for this report?

AC: The data for this report came from the 2011-2018 NHIS, a nationally representative, household survey of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. NHIS is a multipurpose health survey conducted continuously throughout the year by the National Center for Health Statistics. Most interviews are conducted in person in respondent’s homes.


Q: What is the take home message for this report?

AC: The percentages of persons who were in families having problems paying medical bills varied by health insurance type. Among persons under age 65, those who were uninsured were more likely that those with Medicaid or private coverage to have problems paying medical bills, and among adults aged 65 and over, those with Medicare and Medicaid, and Medicare only were more likely than those with Medicare Advantage or private coverage to have problems paying medical bills.

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