The lion's share of media attention has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impacts in recent months. While these events have ravaged small businesses and their employees, another crisis has been steadily building in the shadows: the nation's largest source of debt in collections, medical bills. In this article, the Resolvly team takes a closer look at this looming issue to highlight the ways that debtors can seek relief.
How Severe is the Medical Debt Crisis?
In July 2021, the JAMA Network published a new study on the American medical debt crisis. Their findings were unsettling, to say the least. As of June 2020, nearly one in five Americans had medical debt that was in collections. This debt totaled a staggering $140 billion.
It is important to note that this figure does not include medical bills that are owed directly to health care providers. Medical bills that are paid with credit cards or via long-term repayment plans are also not accounted for in the study. JAMA's work only examined debts that had already been sold off to various debt collections agencies.
Unfortunately, the total amount of medical debt in America likely grew even larger during the pandemic. However, data for the most recent year is not available quite yet.
Which Groups Are Most Directly Impacted by Medical Debt?
Medical debt impacted certain regions and demographics more severely than others. The mean amount of debt tended to be lower in the Northeast region of the country and highest in Southern states. Average debt in the South tallied $616, while Northeastern residents averaged approximately $167 in unpaid medical bills.
Medical debt was also higher in "poor" zip codes than it was in wealthier zip codes. In addition, states that expanded their Medicaid programs in 2014 experienced a decline in medical debt from 2013-2020.
The study concludes that medical debt was at its highest among those living in Southern states and in low-income neighborhoods.
Unsurprisingly, states that expanded their Medicaid programs fared better over the last seven years. Not only do these programs give Americans better access to healthcare, but they could also help improve a person's financial wellbeing.
Once the latest data is available, it will likely demonstrate that states with the most robust Medicaid programs took on the smallest amount of medical debt during the pandemic.
Overcoming Medical Debt
Regardless of which state you reside in or which healthcare programs are available, any form of medical debt can be crippling. It can rob you of your peace of mind. In fact, medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy.
Fortunately, there is hope. By partnering with a debt-resolution attorney, you can find relief from your medical debt. These attorneys specialize in helping consumers exercise their legal rights to resolve debts on favorable terms. If you would like to learn more, contact the team at Resolvly, LLC today.
Resolvly is a Florida Bar-approved lawyer referral service that helps clients nationwide connect with consumer protection attorneys specializing in debt resolution.
The Boca Raton-based company was founded in 2015. It has helped thousands of Americans find the right legal-based solution to reduce or dismiss their unsecured debt. Resolvly works with a network of attorneys that will protect and enforce their clients' legal rights.
Agents are there to help consumers compare the different debt relief assistance programs that are available to them. Every client is given a free consultation and overview of the reasons why legal-based debt resolution is the safest and most effective approach.
Resolvly adds a personal touch to debt assistance. Our ultimate goal is to help clients with their current debt while empowering them not to end up in the same position in the future.