US survey finds smaller decline in medical bill worries
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<p style="text-align:center"><img src="https://imedia-peoplesdaily.pdnews.cn/20200213/3af01f330a7d477290ad5c30e8c4ae0c.jpeg" title="" alt="2-19.jpeg"/></p><p><span style="color: rgb(165, 165, 165);">In this Dec. 20, 2011 file photo, medical bills and other records are spread out on the kitchen table of a patient in Salem, Va. (Photo: AP) </span></p><p>The proportion of people in families struggling to pay medical bills is down, but the number isn’t dropping like it used to, according to a big government study.</p><p>In a 2018 national survey, just over 14% of people said they belonged to a family struggling with those bills, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday. That’s a big drop from nearly 20% in 2011 but only slightly less than the proportion who reported the problem in 2016 and 2017.</p><p>Researchers cautioned against reading too much into the results, in part because the survey doesn’t show important details like income levels or the size of the bills that worry people.</p><p>But they said the smaller decline reflects broader health care trends. A big one is a slowdown in growth for the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions.</p><p>The ACA offers subsidized private insurance for people who don’t have access to a job-based plan. It also expanded Medicaid coverage in many states. Those expansions started in 2014.</p><p>“The gains of the Affordable Care Act kind of plateaued over the past few years and actually, depending on the data source, look like they’re eroding a little bit,” said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, a Harvard professor of health policy and economics.</p><p>He noted that the two biggest factors that determine whether a family struggles with medical bills are insurance coverage and income levels.</p><p>The type of coverage matters too. More plans are requiring patients to pay thousands of dollars in deductibles or other out-of-pocket payments.</p><p>That can counter some of the gains patients might make in an improving economy, noted Northwestern University economist David Dranove.</p><p>Neither Sommers nor Dranove were involved with the CDC study.</p><p>Researchers with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics also found that the percentage of people in families with medical bill worries varied based on factors like race.</p><p>More than 20% of black respondents were in families with those concerns. That compares with 13% of whites, more than 15% of those who identified as Hispanic and 7% of Asians.</p><p><br/><br/></p>