Health

Study: One in Five Families Can't Afford Medical Bills

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While the number of families struggling to pay for their healthcare has come down, one in five families still struggles to pay for their medical bills.

New figures show that 20.3 percent of people under age 65 are in families that had trouble paying a medical bill in the first half of 2012.

It went down from 21.7 percent in the first half of 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The numbers are increasingly important as America is closer toward the implementation of Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is expected to relieve some of the financial burdens caused by medical care.

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Robin Cohen and colleagues analyzed data from national surveys to determine the percentage of people struggling over medical bills.

In the study, they excluded people aged 65 and older because those people have right to coverage by Medicare.

But a quarter of those who had Medicare or Medicaid also struggled to pay for their medical bills.

"In the first 6 months of 2012, among persons under age 65, 36.3 percent of those who were uninsured, 14 percent of those who had private coverage, and 25.6 percent of those who had public coverage were in families having problems paying medical bills," the report said.

This comes after one report indicated that those who have a cancer diagnosis are more likely to go bankrupt even with insurance.

This is because America has one of the highest healthcare costs amongst developed nations, as 50 million Americans are unable to pay for health insurance.

But even when insured, many of those with a chronic condition diagnosis or cancer struggle to pay for their bills.

Congress expects that Obamacare will reduce the number of uninsured people to 27 million. The plan will help people attain private health insurance, as well, because it will stop companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions. 

And those who earn just over $15,000 will be able to claim Medicaid and receive tax credits for private healthcare.

Yet America's high health costs will likely be a problem for years to come. A recent NY Times article found that Americans, on average, pay four times more for a hip replacement than patients in France or Switzerland. Americans also pay more for simply allergy remedies like Nasonex, which costs $108 in the U.S. but only $21 in Spain.

Sources: Daily Mail, NY Times