One out of every four American families in 2012 dealt with a medical bill debt burden, according to a data report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January.
And while that statistic, compiled by the National Health Interview Survey, is alarming, even more compelling is the fact that one out of every 10 individuals with medical debt is “unable to pay at all.”
According to the report, families that were within 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) had an increased chance of medical debt. Families that had children under the age of 18 were also more at risk of falling into financial ruin due to medical expenses.
“In the past we’ve looked at financial burden from a personal perspective, but our survey has the unique ability to look at the problem from a family perspective,” said co-author Dr. Robin A. Cohen of the report. “The expenses of one family member can adversely affect the whole family.”
“We found that in 2012 one in six families had problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months. One in five of those families were paying bills over time or on credit and the presence of a family member that was uninsured increased the likelihood of a family facing some kind of burden from medical care,” Cohen told the AFRO.
For the cross-sectional survey a “family” was defined as an individual or a group of two or more related persons living in the same housing unit.
Cohen said that having a mixture of coverage types also increased the chances of falling victim to medical bill debt. For example, a family of four with two individuals on Medicaid and two individuals using private insurance has an increased risk.
According to Cohen, families with mixed coverage, or a mixture of covered and uncovered individuals had almost a 50 percent chance of financial burden due to medical care.