Feb 12, 2020 - Health

14% of Americans struggle to pay medical bills

Illustration of a red cross and a pill bottle in a pile of money
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The number of people struggling to pay medical bills has fallen by 5.5 percentage points since 2011, but more than 14% of Americans still had problems in 2018, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: "Families with problems paying medical bills may experience serious financial consequences, such as having problems with paying for food, clothing, or housing, and filing for bankruptcy," the report's authors write.

Data: NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2011–2018; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2011–2018; Chart: Axios Visuals

Between the lines: Some groups of people are more likely to struggle to pay their bills than others.

  • Women, children and black Americans were more likely to struggle than males, adults and other racial and ethnic groups.
  • Among people under 65, the uninsured unsurprisingly were more likely to report problems paying medical bills than those with Medicaid or private insurance.
  • And among people over 65, people jointly enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid and those enrolled in traditional fee-for-service Medicare were more likely to struggle than those with Medicare Advantage or private coverage.

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