CDC: 1 in 4 families struggles with healthcare bills

More than a quarter of U.S. families experienced a healthcare-related financial burden in 2012, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) also found that:

  • Families with incomes at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, and those with children 17 or younger, stood a greater chance of shouldering healthcare-related financial burdens;

  • Among families with at least one child, 12.1 percent had a bill they could not pay and 29.8 percent were still paying off a bill;

  • A family only had to have one uninsured member to increase the chance of a financial burden of medical care; and

  • Thirty-six percent of families with children experienced medical care financial burdens, compared to 25 percent of households with no children.

About 20 percent of people reported they were members of a family struggling to pay medical bills, while 10 percent of people said their family couldn't pay medical bills at all, according to the survey data.

This was the first report based on NHIS data to examine financial burdens from a family perspective rather than an individual perspective, according to authors Robin A. Cohen, Ph.D., and Whitney K. Kirzinger, M.P.H., both of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health Interview Statistics. 

Family-centered data can be more useful, they wrote, because a single family member's health can affect the entire family's financial stability. "Often, persons in families with more than one member can financially benefit from shared income and household expenses," the report states. "However, when one family member experiences a financial burden of medical care, the entire family may be at risk for financial burden."

Although making healthcare more affordable and reducing the number of uninsured is a major goal of the Affordable Care Act, bringing these numbers down may be an uphill struggle. A survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the target population for health insurance exchanges assume they are ineligible for subsidies, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the report