One in Seven Nonelderly Adults Have Past-Due Medical Debt

In HealthDay News
by Healthday

Of these individuals, nearly three-quarters owe some money to hospitals

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 15, 2023 (HealthDay News) — More than 15 percent of nonelderly U.S. adults report having past-due medical debt, according to a report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Using data from the June 2022 round of the Urban Institute Health Reform Monitoring Survey, an internet-based survey of adults (ages 18 to 64 years; 9,494 participants), the authors of the report found that among adults who reported owing past-due medical debt to hospitals, 27.9 percent owe all of their debt to hospitals, while 45.1 percent owe their debt to hospitals and other providers. Most adults with past-due medical debt owed at least $1,000, but more than 20 percent owed at least $5,000. Compared with adults with only debt from nonhospital providers, adults with past-due hospital bills were more likely to have much higher total amounts of medical debt. Furthermore, most adults (60.9 percent) with past-due hospital bills were contacted by a collection agency.

Past-due medical debt was twice as likely among adults with disabilities (29.1 percent) versus those without disabilities (12.5 percent). Compared with White adults (12.8 percent), Black (25.9 percent) and Latino (19.1 percent) adults were more likely to report past-due medical debt. Individuals with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level were just as likely to be referred to debt collection and to have received discounted care as higher-income earners.

“These findings highlight the persistent challenge of medical debt in America, and the role of hospitals as a key source of that debt,” Michael Karpman, M.P.P., a principal research associate at the Urban Institute, said in a statement. “Understanding the experiences of people with past-due medical bills can inform discussions around new consumer protections to alleviate debt burdens.”

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