A new survey is taking the temperature of boomers’ concern over their ability to pay medical bills.

A survey team hired by Aflac Inc., Columbus, Ga., polled 2,091 U.S. residents ages 18 and older.

About 74% of all of the participants without health coverage and 37% of the participants with health coverage said they have considered not going to the doctor because of worries about costs.

The researchers also found that 32% of the participants were concerned about the possibility of needing to declare bankruptcy someday due to unexpected medical bills.

Only 25% of the survey participants born before 1946 and 29% of the youngest participants worry about medical bills leading to bankruptcy, but 37% of the boomers worry about medical bill-related bankruptcy, according to Aflac.

Boomers “own more stuff, and they’re older,” says Lance Osborne, vice president of field force development at Aflac. “They’ve also seen their parents deal with health care problems and long term care issues.”

Aflac, which sells critical illness insurance and other supplemental health and disability products at the worksites, sees strong demand for those types of products among boomers, Osborne says.

Thirty-three percent of the bankruptcy debtors who filed for U.S. bankruptcy court protection in 2001 cited medical problems as a major cause for filing. These respondents say that they lacked health coverage, a group of scholars led by Harvard University researcher David Himmelstein reports in a February 2005 paper on the Health Affairs Web site.

But 67% of the 2001 bankruptcy debtors did have health insurance, and 60% of those debtors started with private coverage, Himmelstein’s team reports.

The privately insured 2001 debtors who were blaming bankruptcy on medical reasons reported having an average of only $13,460 in out-of-pocket medical spending since the onset of their illness or injury, according to Himmelstein’s team.

“Even the most comprehensive plan available to us through Harvard University leaves faculty at risk for out-of-pocket expenses as large as those reported by our medical debtors,” the researchers note.

One of the lessons is that disability insurance, which can help employees cope with inability to work as well as meet medical bills, is critical to financial survival for individuals who suffer from a serious illness or injury, the researchers write.