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Seriously ill, on Medicare and struggling to pay the bills

Though the federal Medicare program was designed to give older Americans a safety net when it comes to accessing and affording health care, a new survey finds many seniors and people with disabilities are struggling to pay their medical bills.

The national survey, first published in the journal Health Affairs and reported by the Associated Press (AP), found 53 percent of all seriously ill Medicare patients had trouble paying their medical bills.

Thirty percent reported that the cost of prescription drugs was their major hardship. Nearly a third (27 percent) said they had been contacted by a collection agency, and nearly a quarter (23 percent) reported being unable to pay for food, heat and housing.

“We did not expect to see this extent of financial hardship in the Medicare population,” Michael Anne Kyle, the study’s lead author, told the AP.

The study included Medicare recipients who are 65 and older as well as younger beneficiaries who qualified for coverage due to a disability. More than half had seen five to nine doctors in the past three years.

A second study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the average Medicare recipient spent $5,460 out-of-pocket for premiums and health care services in 2016.

Are you on Medicare and still struggling to pay your medical bills? Share your experience and views by taking the new Voices for Affordable Health survey.