TIME Health Care

More Americans Are Able to Pay Off Their Medical Bills

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Fewer Americans are uninsured as well

Medical bills, which can often be higher than expected, are a common source of strife for Americans. Yet the number of Americans who say that they’re able to pay them has increased significantly in recent years, according to new federal data.

A new report published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics shows that the percentage of people under age 65 who are in families struggling to pay medical bills dropped from about 21% in 2011 to 16% in the first half of 2016.

Children are also faring better. Fewer young people under age 17 are in families unable to handle their medical bills; that percentage dropped from 23% in 2011 to about 18% in 2016.

Families with public or private health care coverage both experienced drops, though people with public coverage were more likely to be in families struggling to pay their medical bills. Low-income families were most likely to report problems paying back bills.

The report does not delve into the reasons that medical bill issues have eased in recent years, but wider health coverage likely plays a significant role. 17.8 million more Americans were insured in 2016 compared to 2011, the report authors point out.

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