HealthDay News — Medical financial hardship affects more than half of adults in the United States, according to a study published online May 1 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

K. Robin Yabroff, Ph.D., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues examined the national prevalence of medical financial hardship. A total of 68,828 adults aged 18 to 64 years and 24,614 aged ≥65 years were identified from the 2015 to 2017 National Health Interview Survey.

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The researchers found that 56.0 percent of adults reported any medical financial hardship in the previous year, representing about 137.1 million adults. Hardship was more common in adults aged 18 to 64 years than in those aged ≥65 years in the material, psychological, and behavioral domains (28.9, 46.9, and 21.2 percent versus 15.3, 28.4, and 12.7 percent, respectively). In both age groups, lower educational attainment and more health conditions correlated strongly with hardship intensity. In the younger group, the uninsured were more likely to report multiple domains of hardship than those with some public or private insurance (52.8 versus 26.5 and 23.2 percent, respectively). In the older group, the trend was similar for individuals with Medicare only versus those with Medicare and public coverage or Medicare and private coverage (17.1 versus 12.1 and 10.1 percent, respectively).

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“With increasing prevalence of multiple chronic conditions, higher patient cost-sharing, and higher costs of health, the risk of hardship will likely increase in the future,” the authors write. “Thus, development and evaluation of the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies to minimize medical financial hardship will be important.”

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