Medical Debt Burdening More than One-third of Young Adults

Some 36 percent of young adults aged 19-25 have had problems paying medical bills or are carrying medical debt, according to a new survey released Friday.

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That figure grows to 51 percent of young adults not covered by health insurance. Some 40 percent of all young adults reported that they have chosen not to seek health care because of concern about the expense, including 60 percent of uninsured young adults.

The survey, conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, also found evidence that a provision in 2010′s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allowing young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parent’s health coverage appears to be the reason some 6.6 million young adults became newly insured.

“The burden of medical bills and debt had significant financial consequences for young adults, forcing many to make education and career trade-offs,” the survey’s authors concluded. “Among young adults who reported problems paying medical bills or said they were paying off medical debt, 43 percent said they had used up all their savings to pay their bills, 33 percent took on credit card debt, 32 percent had been unable to meet other debt obligations such as school loans or tuition payments, 31 percent delayed education or career plans, and 28 percent said they had been unable to pay for basic necessities like food or rent.”

One-quarter of young adults reported they were paying off medical debt greater than $4,000, the survey found. Fifteen percent reported debts of $8,000 or more. Having insurance was found to be no guarantee of relief from medical debt as the survey found that 52 percent of those with healthcare debt problems had reported that they were insured at the time.

A summary of the report, “Young, Uninsured, and in Debt: Why Young Adults Lack Health Insurance and How the Affordable Care Act Is Helping,” can be found here.

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