WASHINGTON (AFP) - One in five American adults are working to pay off medical debts while an "alarmingly high" number of Americans with chronic illnesses skipped their medications because they could not afford them, according to a new study.
The study, by The Commonwealth Fund, also found that 41 percent of working-age Americans with annual incomes between 20,000 and 40,000 dollars were uninsured for at least part of the past year, up sharply from 28 percent in 2001.
"The jump in uninsured among those with modest incomes is alarming, particularly at a time when our economy has been improving," Commonwealth Fund President and study co-author Karen Davis said in a statement.
One in five, insured and uninsured, American adults are vying with unpaid medical bills, and one third of those surveyed had had medical bill problems in the past year or were paying off accrued medical debts, the study said.
Over 44 percent of all working-age adults with medical bills said their debts were 2,000 dollars or higher.
Researchers found that an "alarmingly high" proportion, 59 percent, of adults who were uninsured in the past year and have chronic illnesses, including diabetes and asthma, went without or skipped medications because they could not afford them.
Americans without health insurance were also more likely to go without recommended cancer, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.
However, one-third of uninsured adults with chronic conditions visited a hospital emergency room, or stayed in a hospital overnight, or did both, compared to 16 percent of insured adults with such conditions.
A total of 4,350 adults, aged 19 and older, participated in the study which was conducted between August of last year and January 2006.