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25% of Adults Need Help with Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses

Last updated February 13, 2024

According to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund, one in four working-age American adults with insurance coverage are struggling with medical bills or medical debt. Surveying 4,272 adults ages 19 to 64, the study’s key takeaways highlight the extreme state of American health care costs and the immense impact of medical debt on individuals and families.

25% of adults reported medical bill issues or medical debt.

One-quarter of working-age adults who had adequate health insurance coverage for a full year reported issues with medical bills or medical debt. This takeaway obliterates the myth that only people with little or no insurance coverage need help with their out-of-pocket medical expenses.

50% of uninsured or underinsured adults struggle with the impact of medical costs.

Among adults who had limited or no health insurance coverage, 50% reported difficulty paying their medical bills or having to pay off medical debt over time to stay afloat.

Black Americans are 10% more likely to report medical debt issues.

45% of Black Americans and 35% of white Americans reported medical bill or medical debt issues.

26% of adults with medical bill issues are unable to pay for basic necessities.

A medical crisis can decimate a family’s foundations. More than one-quarter of adults who reported issues with medical debt or medical bills were no longer able to pay for basic living necessities, including food, heat, or rent.

37% of adults with a medical bill problem had used up all their savings.

Whether an adult is underinsured, uninsured, or reasonably insured, a major medical concern can easily eat through every financial safety net. 37% of adults who reported having issues with medical bill or medical debt said that they had already used up all of their savings.

40% of adults with medical bill issues received a lower credit rating.

Medical debt concerns don’t just lead to short-term financial instability. 40% of adults who reported a medical bill or medical debt issue had received a lower credit rating.

43% of adults do not have stable health insurance coverage.

Medical debt can be a silent epidemic – those who are unaffected by debilitating health costs may not realize that their friends, neighbors, and co-workers are buckling under the weight of these costs all around them.

Between January and June 2020, 43% of working-age adults did not have stable health insurance coverage.

Of that group:

  • 12.5% were uninsured
  • 9.5% had a coverage gap
  • 21% were considered underinsured based on the high cost of their out-of-pocket expenses or deductibles compared to their income
  • One-fourth of all employee health plans are considered underinsured

Latino adults, small business workers, and low-income adults are disproportionately affected.

One-third of all Latino adults, small business workers, and low-income adults were either underinsured or uninsured between January and June 2020.

$1,000+ deductibles rose from 22% to 46%.

Medical debt is a problem that is increasing in its urgency and its devastating impact on individuals and families. Between 2010 and 2020, the share of adults with private insurance who reported deductibles of $1,000+ more than doubled from 22% to 46%.

The Invisible Pandemic

The survey findings are clear: whether they are underinsured, living with a limited income, or faced with a sudden and extremely expensive crisis, millions of Americans need help with out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Since 1983, our nonprofit has existed to provide help and hope during a time of overwhelming need, reducing the burden of out-of-pocket medical costs through community-based medical fundraising.

If you or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with medical debt, start a verified, tax-deductible medical fundraising campaign. Discover how to raise funds for medical expenses or how to raise money for a family in need with one-on-one support every step of the way.

You are not alone.

Written by Emily Progin