One in Three Americans Are in Families Having Trouble Paying Their Medical Bills

In preliminary 2011 data released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), one in three persons in the United states was in a family experiencing financial burden of medical care. The estimates were released in the first week of March prior to final data editing and final weighting, to provide access to the most recent information from the National Health Interview Survey.

For the first six months of 2011, the data also showed:

  • One in five persons was in a family having problems paying medical bills
  • One in four persons was in a family paying medical bills over time
  • And one in 10 persons was in a family that had medical bills they were unable to pay at all.

Problems with medical bills decreased with age. Almost 24% of children from birth to 17 years were in families having problems paying medical bills compared with 21% of adults aged 18–64, 10% of adults aged 65–74, and 7% of adults aged 75 and over.

Problems Paying Medical Bills Cut Across All Income Strata While nearly half of the poor and near poor under 65 years of age had some medically-related financial problems, nearly one-third of those classified as not poor had such problems, too (see figure to the right).

The National Health Interview Survey has been conducted continuously by NCHS since 1957 and is the primary source of information on the health of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States. Through its Early Release program, the CDC and NCHS publish selected estimates from the National Health Interview Survey on an expedited schedule. 


  1. Cohen RA, Gindi RM, Kirzinger WK. Burden of medical care cost: Early release of estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January–June 2011. National Center for Health Statistics. March 2012. Available from:

< Back to Listings