FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of all working-age U.S. adults, or 84 million people, faced the prospect of crippling medical bills in 2012 because they had little or no health insurance, according to a new report by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.
There was one bright spot in the new numbers. For the first time in a decade, younger adults saw coverage gains, thanks to a new provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows children to remain on their parents' policies until age 26. Nearly 2 million more young adults had health insurance in 2012 compared to 2010.
In an April 17 press briefing, Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, called the gains "good and unprecedented news" and said they helped to offset continuing declines in other age groups.
"But overall," he said, "the survey shows the continuation of the bad news that sparked the move to reform our dysfunctional health care system."
For the report, the Commonwealth Fund randomly surveyed over 4,400 adults aged 19 to 65 in 2012. Respondents were asked questions about their health insurance, medical bills and access to needed medical care. The Commonwealth Fund has conducted the study every two years since 2003.
These surveys show that the number of Americans who were uninsured or underinsured -- meaning their out-of-pocket health care costs were considered to be too high relative to their incomes -- has climbed steadily over the last decade. That figure rose from 61 million, or 36 percent of working age adults, in 2003 to 81 million, or 44 percent of adults, in 2010. The number rose only slightly in 2012 to 84 million, or 46 percent of all adults.
Lack of adequate health insurance has left millions struggling to pay off medical debt. Two in five adults, or an estimated 75 million people, said they had trouble paying at least one medical bill over the past year.<
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