10 states with the highest rates of past-due medical debt in 2015

Almost one in four nonelderly Americans had medical debt past-due in 2015, and it was more common in states with high rates of uninsured people, according to a recent study conducted by the Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute study broke down past-due medical debt by state, health insurance coverage status and demographic and socioeconomic background. Using data from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation's 2012 and 2015 editions of the "National Financial Capability Study," researchers found past-due medical debt declined by about 5.8 percentage points between 2012 and 2015. Rates of past-due medical debt declined most for people with low and moderate incomes, according to the report. And while rates declined in all 50 states over the study period, the instance of past-due medical debt still remains highly prevalent in many southern states in particular.

Here are the 10 states with the highest rates of past-due medical debt in 2015 and how much that rate has changed since 2012, according to the Urban Institute. Percentages reflect the share of adults ages 18 to 64 with past-due medical debt.

1. Mississippi — 37.4 percent (-23.8 percent change from 2012)
2. Arkansas — 36.3 percent (-9.8 percent change)
3. West Virginia — 33 percent (-12.1 percent change)
4. Indiana — 32.5 percent (-0.6 percent change)
5. South Carolina — 32.4 percent (-11.9 percent change)
6. Kentucky — 30.9 percent (-26.7 percent change)
7. Missouri — 30.6 percent (-11.3 percent change)
8. Oklahoma — 30 percent (-21 percent change)
8. Alabama — 30 percent (-10 percent change)
10. Georgia — 29.2 percent (-5.9 percent change)

In comparison, the state with the lowest rate of medical debt past-due in 2015 was Hawaii, at 5.9 percent, and the U.S. average is 23.8 percent.

The Urban Institute also conducted a companion study which demonstrates that financial knowledge and health insurance coverage are associated with lower levels of medical debt. Read more here.


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