Study Breaks Down Medical Debt Problem Across the Country

More than half of adults in the United States have gone into debt in the past five years because of a medical or dental bill, according to the results of a nationwide survey, and about 20% of those adults say they don’t ever expect to fully repay those debts. The poll was accompanied by a study, released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, that looked at the consequences of unpaid medical bills, such as the sacrifices that individuals make to repay their healthcare debts.

Nearly two-thirds of individuals have cut their spending on basics like food and clothing, and nearly half of those surveyed have exhausted all of their savings to pay their medical debts. Forty percent took on extra work and one-fifth have declared bankruptcy or lost their homes, according to the report. The report included anecdotes of individuals who are trying to repay their medical debts, including a husband and wife who incurred $80,000 in healthcare debts following the premature birth of twins. The mom was forced to take on extra shifts to make more money to try and repay the debt and they were forced to move across the country to be closer to family to help them with their financial situation.

Many individuals used credit cards to fund their healthcare charges, and now one-sixth of them are paying off a medical or dental bill that was put on a credit card.

The survey revealed that neither age, nor financial situation, nor race saved people from incurring healthcare debts. Nearly 70% of individuals between the ages of 30 and 49 are carrying some amount of healthcare debt, and 45% of those making at least $90,000 year are doing the same. More than 60% of people with insurance have had some amount of medical or dental debt in the past five years, according to the study.

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