Selected Financial Burdens of Health Care Among Families With Older Adults, by Family Composition: United States, 2017–2018

Questions for Robin Cohen, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Selected Financial Burdens of Health Care Among Families With Older Adults, by Family Composition: United States, 2017–2018.”

Q: Why did you decide to do a report on financial burdens to health care among U.S. families with older adults?

RC: Living arrangements are associated with financial status. Sharing financial resources may offer financial stability to the family.  Financial stability has been associated with one’s ability to pay for medical expenses. However, little is known how financial burdens for medical care differ among older adult families in the United States.


Q: Can you summarize some of the data in the report?

RC: About 8.6% of families with older adults experienced problems paying medical bills and 8.9% had forgone medical care. Older-adult families with at least one child were most likely to experience problems paying medical bills and to have forgone medical care. Older-adult families with only two older adults were the least likely to have experienced problems paying medical bills and to have forgone medical care.


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

RC: After adjusting for selected family characteristics in multivariate analyses, the odds of experiencing problems paying medical bills and forgone medical care weakened for all family compositions but remained significantly lower for families with only two older adults.


Q: Is there any trend data that goes back further than 2017?

RC: This is the first time that we have looked at older adult families with the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). However, NHIS data is available to examine this issue back to 2011.


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

RC: The findings from this report support the premise that older-adult families with different family compositions experience different levels of financial barriers to medical care.

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