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Tough trade-offs: medical bills, family finances and access to care.


About 20 million American families-representing 43 million people-reported problems paying medical bills in 2003, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). While uninsured families are more likely to have medical bill problems, two-thirds of families with problems paying medical bills have health insurance coverage. Of all families with medical bill problems, almost two-thirds reported difficulty paying for other basic necessities-rent, mortgage payments, transportation or food-as a result of medical debt. People in families with medical bill problems also reported much greater trouble getting care because of cost concerns-one in three did not get a prescription drug, one in four delayed care and one in eight went without needed care.

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