Fewer Americans are having difficulty paying their medical bills, according to a federal study published on Wednesday.
From 2011 to 2016, the number of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills decreased, dropping 22 percent, or nearly 13 million people, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
While the report did not describe the reasons behind the decrease, the authors highlighted the fact that a significantly lower number of Americans were uninsured, specifically 17.8 million fewer persons in the first half of 2016 than in 2011.
"The effect on families is profound," says Lynn Quincy, director of the Healthcare Value Hub at the Consumers Union, told NPR. "Health care costs are a top financial concern for families, far above other financial concerns."
She added, "The fact that this report shows it's getting easier, it seems like we should lay a good part of this at the door of the ACA."
Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services support that statement.
According to HHS, 20 million people have secured health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act since it took effect in 2010.
"The coverage is more protective in many ways," Kevin Lucia, a research professor at Georgetown's Health Policy Institute, told NPR. "It doesn't include annual limits [or] lifetime limits, and it includes a comprehensive benefit package. That may be contributing to the improved data."
While unemployment rate has decreased as well, consider this: The government counts people as employed even if they are working part-time jobs, which rarely offer health care benefits. In fact, more than 6.6 million Americans are “involuntary part-time workers,” meaning they have part-time jobs but want full-time work.
Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to repeal Obamacare, has named representative Tom Price as his choice for health secretary. According to The New York Times, Price is incredibly prepared to dismantle and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law — he “has been studying how to accomplish that goal for more than six years.”
As ATTN: previously reported, Obamacare sign-ups have surged since Trump's election, with 300,000 sign-ups coming the three days after Trump was elected president on Nov. 8. While Obamacare has been beset with real problems, which will lead to overall premium increases of around 22-percent across the country in 2017, the surge could suggest that Americans feel a deeply flawed system is better than nothing at all.