Fewer People Under the Age of 65 Having Trouble With Medical Bills, Report Finds

PHOTO: Fewer people are having trouble paying for medical bills.Getty Images
Fewer people are having trouble paying for medical bills.

Fewer people under the age of 65 are being burdened by medical bills, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Federal researchers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services examined data from the National Health Interview Survey and found that the percentage of people under age 65 in families having difficulty paying medical bills has decreased from 21.3 percent in 2011 to 16.2 percent in the first six months of 2016. The NHIS defines "family" "as an individual or a group of two or more related persons living together in the same housing unit," according to the report.

Decreases were seen in a variety of groups including people both with and without private insurance, people who were above and below the poverty line and both those under the age of 18 and those between the ages of 18 to 64. The researchers did not look at data for those over the age of 65 and did not speculate on why fewer people were having difficulty paying medical bills. They examined responses from the National Health Interview Survey starting in 2011 and ending during the first six months of 2016.

Karen Politz, senior fellow at Kaiser Family Foundation, said with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the number of people without health insurance has declined, which has likely led to fewer people having issues paying medical bills.

"The highest incidence with people in medical bill problems has always been uninsured and we’ve seen that number declined substantially in last couple years," Politz told ABC News.

She said medical costs can still be a problem for people with insurance.

"Some people have health insurance who nonetheless experience cost problems," Politz said. She pointed out people sometimes accidentally go out of network "and get billed by people who you thought was in network."

Among people under 65, 28.5 percent of people who were in uninsured families had trouble paying medical bills as compared to 21.1 percent of people in families who had public coverage and 12.6 percent of people in families with private coverage. In addition, 24.9 percent people living near the poverty line (with incomes of 100 to less than 200 percent of the poverty threshold) had trouble paying these bills compared to 23.0 percent of people in families below the poverty threshold and just 12.6 percent of people whose incomes were 200 percent or more than the poverty threshold.