PROJECTPast-Due Medical Debt, Financial Knowledge, and Health Insurance


Medical debt can be a significant barrier to financial health. In 2012, nearly 30 percent of nonelderly adults said they had an outstanding, past-due medical bill. Since then, the economy has improved and health insurance coverage has increased, yet past-due medical debt still affects millions of people’s ability to build credit, to get the health care they need, and even to afford basic needs.

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This brief provides the first state-level estimates of the share of nonelderly adults reporting medical bills that are past due, drawing on data from the 2012 and 2015 National Financial Capability Study. Past-due medical debt is common: 23.8 percent of nonelderly adults reported past-due medical
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Medical debt is one of the most common forms of debt in collections. Consumers can mitigate this risk, but they need to know about effective strategies. Using the National Financial Capability Study, we estimate that nonelderly adults who answer four or five questions correctly on a five-question
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Lower rates of health insurance coverage and wealth accumulation are making it harder for younger generations to pay off past-due medical bills.
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Nearly one in three nonelderly black Americans have past-due medical bills—a concerning number given the consequences for physical and financial health.
Research Areas Health and health care
Tags Opportunity and ownership