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Health Insurance Shortfalls Hit Nearly Half of U.S. Adults: Report
Date:4/26/2013

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Forty-two percent said medical debt had lowered their credit score. Thirty-seven percent said they'd run through all of their savings to pay medical bills. Meanwhile, roughly one in four people said they took on credit card debt, were unable to pay for basic necessities like food and rent, or delayed career or education plans because of medical debt.

Costs are also preventing many from getting needed care in the first place. Over the last decade, the number of adults who said they didn't go to the doctor when they were sick or couldn't get a test or a prescription because it cost too much rose from an estimated 63 million in 2003 to 80 million in 2012.

Problems with access to care because of high costs were so pervasive, the survey found they were even affecting people who had good health care coverage.

"About 28 percent of people who were adequately insured" reported problems accessing care, said Sara Collins, vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund. "It's really a problem across the insurance spectrum."

Poor and middle-income adults continue to be the most vulnerable to medical costs. Seventy-two percent of those who didn't have enough health insurance in 2012 had incomes that fell under 250 percent of the federal poverty level. For single adults, that's an annual income of about $28,000 a year, or roughly $58,000 for a family of four.

The report projects that the Affordable Care Act will help to mitigate some of those disparities when it takes full effect next year.

Of the estimated 55 million adults who had a gap in coverage in 2012, 87 percent would qualify for assistance to help them pay for health insurance under the new law. Roughly 28 million would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, if it's available in their state. And another 20 million would get subsidies to help them pay for health plans available through new health insurance exchanges.

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