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

November 30, 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.


Percentage of People Under age 65 in Families Having Problems Paying Medical Bills Decrease

April 9, 2014

A new NCHS report provides updated estimates for the percentage of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills, by selected demographic variables, based on data from five consecutive 6-month periods from January–June 2011 to January–June 2013 of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). In this report, an NHIS “family” is defined as an individual or a group of two or more related persons living together in the same housing unit. Thus, a family can consist of only one person. In some instances, unrelated persons sharing the same household, such as an unmarried couple living together, may also be considered a family.

Key Findings from the Report:

• The percentage of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills decreased from 21.7% (57.6 million) in the first 6 months of 2011 to 19.8% (52.8 million) in the first 6 months of 2013.
• Within each 6-month period from January 2011 through June 2013, children aged 0–17 years were more likely than adults aged 18–64 to be in families having problems paying medical bills.
• The percentage of children aged 0–17 years who were in families having problems paying medical bills decreased from 23.7% in the first 6 months of 2011 to 21.3% in the first 6 months of 2013.
• In the first 6 months of 2013, among persons under age 65, 34.3% of those who were uninsured, 24.7% of those who had public coverage, and 14.1% of those who had private coverage were in families having problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months.
• In the first 6 months of 2013, 28.6% of poor, 33.3% of near poor, and 14.3% of not poor persons under age 65 were in families having problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months.