20% of Americans with medical debt don't think they'll ever pay it off

Research indicates that rising healthcare costs continue to be a dominant concern in the U.S., and the unequal consequences of healthcare debt are evident in the findings, with nearly 20 percent of Americans reporting medical debt they do not think they can ever pay off, according to an Oct. 6 report from National Public Radio.

According to the most recent data on U.S. medical debt published in the JAMA Network, 17.8 percent of individuals in the U.S. had medical debt in collections. Additionally, medical debt was highest among individuals who lived in the southern U.S., and it became more concentrated in lower-income communities in states that did not expand Medicaid. 

A national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted from Feb. 25 through March 20, 2022, sampled 2,375 U.S. adults and found that 41 percent of adults currently have some debt caused by medical or dental bills.

  • 24 percent say they have medical or dental bills past due or that they cannot pay.
  • 21 percent say they have bills they are paying off over time directly to a provider. 
  • 17 percent say they have medical or dental bills on a credit card.
  • 10 percent say they borrowed money from a family member or friend to pay medical or dental bills.

Lower education and income levels are associated more frequently with medical debt than with higher education and income. Additionally, 48 percent of women have medical debt compared to 34 percent of men. Minority populations are also more heavily affected, with 56 percent of Black, and 50 percent of Hispanic adults in debt, compared to 37 percent of white adults.

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