Rising Health Costs, Medical Debt and Chronic Conditions


Publication Date: September 2004

Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Ha T. Tu

Research Area: Health

Type: Brief


About 57 million working-age Americans—18-64 years old—live with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or depression. In 2003, more than one in five, or 12.3 million people with chronic conditions, lived in families with problems paying medical bills, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Rising health costs have hit low-income, privately insured people with chronic conditions particularly hard. Between 2001 and 2003, the proportion of low-income, chronically ill people with private insurance who spent more than 5 percent of their income on out-of-pocket health care costs grew from 28 percent to 42 percent. For the 6.6 million uninsured, chronically ill Americans, the financial consequences are especially grave—nearly half reported medical bill problems, making them much more likely to forgo or delay needed medical care. Among the 3 million uninsured, chronically ill people with medical bill problems, four in 10 went without needed care, two in three put off care and seven in 10 did not fill a prescription in the past year because of cost concerns.