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Medical Bill Woes

October 17, 2006

One in four Americans (25%) say that they or a family member in their household had problems paying medical bills during the past 12 months, according to a new poll conducted jointly by ABC News, the Kaiser Family Foundation and USA Today. That’s the highest share of Americans reporting a problem paying medical bills in a series of Kaiser surveys taken since 1997.

Among those reporting a problem this year, nearly seven in 10 (69%) have health insurance.

These findings are part of a nationally representative survey on health care in America, which is being featured in a weeklong series of reports on ABC News programs, ABCNews.com and in USA Today. The survey examines Americans’ views and experiences related to health care costs and quality, as well as their attitudes toward possible policy solutions.

Key findings include:

  • About one in four (28%) Americans say that in the past year they or a family member have put off medical treatment because of its cost. Of those who delayed treatment, seven in 10 (70%) say that the care was for a serious medical condition.
  • Among those with health insurance, most (60%) are worried about not being able to afford coverage over the next few years, with 27% saying they are very worried.
  • More than half (54%) of those without health coverage say the main reason is because they can’t afford it, while another 15% say they can’t get it due to poor health, illness or age. In comparison, just 4% say the main reason they lack health insurance is because they think they don’t need it.
  • Eight in 10 Americans (80%) say they are dissatisfied with the overall cost of health care to the nation. When asked about their own concerns about the health care system, cost comes out far ahead of quality. Four in 10 say that they are dissatisfied with their personal health care costs, compared with one in 10 who say they are dissatisfied with the quality of their health care.

The Health Care in America Survey is a nationally representative survey of 1,201 adults conducted between Sept. 7 and 12, 2006. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for results based on total respondents.

The ABC News/Kaiser Family Foundation/USA Today Survey Project is a three-way partnership. Representatives of ABC News, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and USA Today worked together to develop the survey questionnaire.

ABC News and USA Today individually retain editorial control over the content they broadcast or publish.

Full survey results are available at http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/pomr101606pkg.cfm.

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