Brief Medical Debt in New York State
Estimates for Large Cities and Towns, State Legislative Districts, Congressional Districts, and Other Geographic Areas
Jennifer Andre, Michael Karpman, Fredric Blavin, Dulce Gonzalez, Breno Braga
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A previous Urban Institute analysis of February 2022 data from a random sample of deidentified consumer credit records in New York State found that an estimated 6 percent of consumers had medical debt in collections on their credit reports, and this share varied widely across the state’s economic regions, counties, and communities. In this supplemental brief, we provide a series of tables showing the estimated prevalence of medical debt for additional geographic areas, including cities and towns with large populations, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, hospital referral regions (HRRs), state legislative districts, and congressional districts.

Why this matters

Medical debt can intensify a person’s health and financial challenges and is associated with worse access to health care, credit, employment, housing, and food. The findings in this supplemental brief demonstrate where state initiatives to protect consumers from medical debt are likely to have the greatest impact.

What we found

Consistent with the results from our previous report, we find that the prevalence of medical debt varies substantially across geographic areas of the state. Selected findings include the following:

  • Across the state’s 25 largest cities by population, the share of consumers with medical debt ranged from a low of 3.4 percent in White Plains to a high of 34.5 percent in Elmira. Other cities with relatively high rates of medical debt included Syracuse (24.1 percent), Poughkeepsie (17.0 percent), Utica (16.1 percent), Rome (16.0 percent), and Niagara Falls (13.6 percent).
  • We observed similar variation across HRRs in the state. The share of consumers with medical debt ranged from a low of 3.2 percent in the Manhattan HRR to a high of 15.1 percent in the Elmira HRR. The Syracuse HRR also had a relatively high rate of medical debt, at 14.2 percent.
  • In state senate districts, the share of consumers with medical debt ranged from a low of 1.9 percent in district 17 (select Central and Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods) to a high of 16.1 percent in district 48 (Syracuse, Auburn, and other Central New York municipalities).
  • In state assembly districts, the share of consumers with medical debt ranged from a low of 1.8 percent in district 49 (select Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods) to a high of 21.0 percent in district 129 (parts of Syracuse and the greater Syracuse area).

How we did it

Our analysis draws on February 2022 data from a representative random sample of deidentified credit records for more than 600,000 consumers ages 18 and older in New York State from one of the national credit reporting agencies. The tables in this brief show the prevalence of medical debt at different levels of geography and estimated ranges that account for potential measurement error resulting from the limited number of geographic identifiers available in our data.

Research Areas Health and health care Wealth and financial well-being
Tags Asset and debts Family credit and debt Financial stability Health care spending and costs
Policy Centers Health Policy Center Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
Research Methods Quantitative data analysis
States New York
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