Survey: U.S. adults struggle to pay medical bills, forgo recommended care due to cost

CHICAGO — More than 1-out-of-4 U.S. adults were unable to pay or encountered problems paying medical bills in the past year, according to a new survey published by the Commonwealth Fund.

While 27% of U.S. adults struggled with paying medical bills, 42% did not visit a doctor, fill a prescription or get recommended care when needed. Meanwhile, cost-related access problems and medical bill burdens were prevalent among those adults under 65 years old. Compared with Medicare-aged adults ages 65 years and older, adults under 65 years old significantly were more likely to forgo care due to payment burdens, researchers found.

These conclusions were based on an analysis of the "2011 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Sicker Adults in Eleven Countries," which included more than 18,000 adults ages 18 years and older who were in fair or poor health, had recently been hospitalized or had major surgery, or had a serious illness or injury in the past year in the Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey found that among all of these high-income nations, the United States "stood out for having cost and access problems." Only about 1% to 14% of adults in the other countries had issues paying medical bills.

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