Feb 12, 2020 - Health

14% of Americans struggle to pay medical bills

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.

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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.

Go deeper: Congress remains gridlocked on surprise medical bills

Go deeper

How doctors have shaped the fight around surprise medical bills

Doctors' extensive lobbying on surprise medical bills is partly to blame for Congress' inaction on the issue, reports Kaiser Health News.

Why it matters: "As Congress begins its 2020 legislative session, there is evidence the doctors' message has been received: The bills with the most momentum are making more and more concessions to physicians."

Go deeperArrowFeb 13, 2020 - Health

Elective surgery's surprise medical bill risk

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Even patients who plan elective surgeries with in-network doctors at in-network facilities have a pretty good chance of receiving a surprise medical bill, according to a new JAMA study.

Why it matters: Surprise bills are a problem for the patients who receive them, but also for the system as a whole, as they drive up overall health care costs.

Go deeperArrowFeb 12, 2020 - Health

Senate Republicans are divided on drug costs and surprise medical bills

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that Senate Republicans are divided on bipartisan bills to address both drug costs and surprise bills, The Hill reports.

The big picture: The White House vocally supports the bipartisan drug pricing bill by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden.