CDC’s report, Problems Paying Medical Bills: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January 2011-June 2012, provides some encouraging news. The data show fewer Americans have trouble paying their medical bills.
Among adults between the ages of 18-64, the percentage of those in families that have problems paying medical bills decreased from 20.9 percent in the first half of 2011, to 19.7 percent in the first half of 2012. The news was also encouraging for teens and children 17 and younger living in families with problems paying medical bills. The percentage of these decreased from 23.7 percent to 21.8 percent for the same period.
While the report provides good news, far too many Americans still find it burdensome to access medical services.
This is why the Affordable Care Act was passed. The law helps Americans with their medical bills in several ways. It requires many insurers to cover certain preventive services at no out of pocket cost to patients. Because of the law, 71 million Americans are receiving expanded coverage of preventive services without co-pays or deductibles — including vaccines, blood pressure and cholesterol tests, mammograms, colonoscopies and screenings for osteoporosis.
The Affordable Care Act has also played a role in helping Americans access the health insurance they need. Since 2010, the law has allowed more than 3.1 million young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26.
When open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013, there will be a new way to shop for coverage under the Affordable Care Act: the Health Insurance Marketplace . Families and individuals will be able to use the Marketplace to find comprehensive health coverage that fits their budget. More people than ever will be eligible for a free or low-cost plan, or a new kind of tax credit that lowers monthly premiums right away.
Also starting next year, all Americans with private insurance gain the security of an annual limit on how much they pay out-of-pocket for health benefits.
Communities across the nation play an important role in leading the way toward healthier families and the Affordable Care Act helps make prevention an important priority for every community. CDC is supporting community efforts by establishing competitive grants to support local programs to help individuals and families to get healthy and stay healthy.
Americans can now have better access to medical services thanks to the health care law. As we move forward, helping people get covered through the Marketplace and other health insurance programs will keep medical services affordable and lessen out-of-pocket costs to individuals and families.
Dr. Tom Frieden, MD, MPH is Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post.