Medical Debt in America

September 4, 2023

The burden of medical debt in the United States has reached staggering proportions, with over $88 billion of such debt documented on consumer credit reports, as reported by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This alarming figure is likely an underestimate due to the absence of a centralized reporting platform for tracking medical debt.

The impact of medical debt is disproportionately borne by certain demographic groups: Black and Hispanic individuals, young adults, seniors, veterans, and low-income Americans, as highlighted by the CFPB.

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Unpaid medical bills can have a lasting and detrimental impact on a person’s financial well-being. When medical debts end up in collections and appear on credit reports, they hinder access to credit, drive up the cost of obtaining credit, and increase the risk of bankruptcy. A study conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealed that a significant percentage of individuals burdened by medical debt reported experiencing low or very low levels of financial well-being due to these financial obligations.

The study further delved into how different income brackets were affected by the concerns related to medical debt (2023):

  • For those earning $15,000 or less annually, a striking 39.2% expressed anxiety about their financial health in connection with medical debt.
  • In the income range of $15,000 to $34,999, 40.2% of individuals were similarly concerned.
  • In the bracket of $35,000 to $49,999, the percentage was 27.4%.
  • Those earning between $50,000 and $74,999 had 20.4% of individuals worried.
  • For those with incomes between $75,000 and $99,999, the figure stood at 20.1%.
  • In the $100,000 to $149,999 income range, 15.6% expressed concerns.
  • Individuals in the $150,000 to $199,999 bracket reported a 16.1% level of apprehension.
  • Even those with higher incomes, $200,000 and above, faced worries, with 22% expressing concerns about their financial health regarding medical debt.

These statistics shed light on the widespread and diverse financial challenges posed by medical debt, emphasizing the urgent need for effective solutions and support for individuals across various income levels.

Reference (2023). Americans in Debt by Age, Demographics, and Other Factors.



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