Nearly 20% of Households Carrying Medical Debt, Including Many That Have Insurance

The average amount of medical debt carried by individuals — regardless of whether they have health insurance or not — is nearly $22,000 and is impacting what are known as the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) — essentially the ability to be able to afford food and somewhere to live.

The data was published last week in the JAMA Network Open, part of the American Medical Association. It looked at survey data that is part of the Census to learn that 18% of households and 11% of individuals in the United States are carrying some amount of medical debt. More than 10% of adults with private health insurance still had medical debt, according to the study.

As can be expected, individuals with medical debts struggled to pay their rent or mortgage or be able to afford food more than those without medical debt.

“The kinds of things we saw in our study are virtually nonexistent in most other wealthy nations,” said the study’s lead author David Himmelstein, a professor at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City, in a published report. The U.S. needs a “real big change.”

That so many people with insurance are carrying medical debt is likely to make it more difficult for companies to try and collect on it. In many cases, individuals believe that their health insurance was supposed to cover the expenses associated with visits to the doctor or trips to the hospital, only to learn later that some or all of the expenses were not covered by their insurance. That confusion and uncertainty makes it harder for companies to try and collect on those debts.

Individuals with medical debts were nearly three times more likely to be unable to pay their rent or be evicted and more than twice as likely to be food insecure or be unable to pay their utilities, according to the report.

Check Also

Nebraska Legislature Holds Hearing on Bill Protecting Assault Victims from Collection

The Nebraska legislature’s Judiciary Committee yesterday held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *