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Medical bill debt common across all states

New Jersey residents struggling to pay medical bills will be relieved to know that they are not alone. For the first time ever, a government agency – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – contracted a study of medical bill debt. Reportedly the largest of its kind on this issue, the National Center for Health Statistics surveyed 52,000 people during the first six months of 2011 regarding the financial burden of medical care.

The survey questions addressed the financial burden of medical care including paying bills, paying bills over time, and having bills that could not be paid at all. One in three respondents said they were in the midst of dealing with medical care financial burdens. One in five said they were having trouble paying their bills and 10 percent said they had medical bills that they could not pay at all.

The youngest and the poorest were the ones having the most trouble paying their medical bills. As people get older, they reportedly have less difficulty paying their medical bills. The study did not draw any conclusion as to why people over 65 years of age had a lower chance of being in a family that had trouble paying their bills.

Surprisingly, the statistics did not change much during the last five years. A smaller survey conducted in 2007 showed similar figures. Experts assumed that the number of people unable to pay their medical bills would have increased during this climate of recession, unemployment and the growing ranks of the uninsured. However, it is more likely that people have simply cut back on health care spending like preventative care, prescriptions, and dentist or doctor visits.

Source: The Washington Post, “1 in 5 US families say they struggle to pay medical bills; half say they can’t pay a cent,” March 6, 2012

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