A new study shows that an alarming percentage of Americans have accrued medical debt, NBC News reported. Researchers examined three years of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, and found that over 10% Americans have outstanding medical debt.
Overall, one in five households owe an average of $4,600 in medical debt.
While the uninsured are the most likely to incur medical debt, those with private insurance are also finding themselves saddled with debt. Of those with medical debt, more than 10% had private insurance plans.
The researchers said that low-and-middle income families are most affected by medical debt and it can create other problems.
“Our findings suggest that incurring medical debt leaves many unable to pay for utilities, and worsens housing and food security, key [social determinants of health (SDOH)] associated with adverse health outcomes, including frailty at birth,” they wrote in the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Network Open. “Hence, unaffordable medical bills may constitute an SDOH in their own right and contribute to a downward spiral of ill-health and financial precarity.”