Americans Face Rising Medical Bills

Armen Hareyan's picture

Many U.S. residents experience enormous difficulties with rising medical bills and face medical debt due to the rising cost of health care and lack of affordable health insurance.

A survey by Commonwealth Fund questioned 3456 Americans aged from 19 to 64 and found that health care costs increase more rapidly than family income does. This creates serious health problems in addition to economic decline. The survey analyzed and compared figures during the period from 2001 to 2007.

The medical bills survey reported that 2/3 of people at a working age were either uninsured or underinsured in 2007. Thus, they did not receive adequate health treatment. Two out of five questioned adults were unable to pay medical bills and faced medical debt, while in 2005 the number of people in this category was lower - one out of three.

In 2007 there were 28% working and uninsured people, while in 2001 it was much lower - 21%. Even those with insurance were unable to afford proper and on-time health care with 61% of insured facing medical debt. However, those with proper insurance covering all their medical costs increased from 9% in 2003 to 14% in 2007.


In 2007, 29% of surveyed people had to put aside common spending, such as food, heating, and rent, to be able to pay for health care, about 30% faced credit card debt, 39% exhausted all their spending to somehow cover medical bills.

The survey found that health care spending accounts for a great percentage of overall spending with middle-income families spending 53% of income to cover medical bills in 2007, which is twice as much as 26% in 2001.

Commonwealth Fund looked at different overall income group families and found that 50% of those earning less than $20,000 were uninsured, which is only 1% increase compared to 2001. Those people earning in the range of $20,000 to $40000 were 41% uninsured, which is a significant increase compared to 28% in 2001. Those earning from $40,000 to $60,000 were 18% uninsured, compared to 13% in 2001, and those earning more than $60000 were 8% uninsured, compared to 4%.

Overall, the survey shows how critical situation with the health care system is: there are lots of families who can not afford adequate healthcare and health insurance coverage even if they work and pay insurance bills they still experience huge difficulties with paying medical bills. The survey also found that there is a very small difference among low and middle income families, with most of them unable to afford healthcare.

It seems, that the basic health care is luxury and not everyone can afford it.

Health officials' response to this survey was that universal health insurance coverage will significantly improve health care system and will allow most of working adults to receive adequate medical assistance.