This summary examines challenges related to using credit cards to pay medical bills. We used data from the June 2022 round of the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey to estimate the share of adults ages 18 to 64 with past-due medical bills who paid some or all of those bills with a credit card and were then unable to make the minimum credit card payment.
Why this matters
Recent data suggest people may be increasing their reliance on credit cards and other financial products to pay medical bills in ways that expose them to financial risks. These products include medical credit cards offering deferred interest promotions that can result in borrowers paying high interest rates. Unpaid credit card bills are more likely to result in damaged credit than unpaid bills owed to health care providers, and increased promotion of credit cards and other payment products could undermine federal protections for consumers with medical debt.
What we found
Our analysis resulted in the following findings:
- Among adults with any past-due medical bills, 24 percent reported paying some or all of these bills with a credit card and being unable to make the subsequent minimum credit card payment.
- This experience was more common among adults with past-due medical debt who were Hispanic and those who were insured when they incurred the debt.
- The use of credit cards by adults with past-due medical debt did not vary significantly by their income, source of debt, or amount of debt. However, previous analysis found that adults with lower incomes are more likely to have any past-due medical debt.
These results suggest many adults who cannot pay for health care are turning to credit cards that they cannot pay off, potentially exposing them to late fees and higher interest rates and increasing the risk of damage to their credit. Additional research is needed to understand the financing products patients use to pay for care and how these products affect patients’ financial well-being and health care access.
How we did it
This analysis draws on data from the June 2022 round of the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS), a nationally representative, internet-based survey of adults ages 18 to 64 that provides timely information on health insurance coverage, health care access and affordability, and other health topics. Approximately 9,500 adults participated in the June 2022 HRMS. The survey questionnaire and information about the survey design are available at https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/health-policy-center/projects/health-reform-monitoring-survey/survey-resources.