The Burden of Medical Debt in the United States

This analysis of government data estimates that people in the United States owe at least $220 billion in medical debt. Approximately 14 million people (6% of adults) in the U.S. owe over $1,000 in medical debt and about 3 million people (1% of adults) owe medical debt of more than $10,000.

The share of adults with medical debt varies considerably across the U.S. Hawaii (2.3%) and D.C. (2.7%) have the lowest share of adults with medical debt. States with the highest share of adults with medical debt include South Dakota (17.7%), Mississippi (15.2%), North Carolina (13.4%), West Virginia (13.3%), and Georgia (12.7%).

The analysis is based on data from the 2021 Survey of Income and Program Participation, a nationally representative survey that asks every adult in a household whether they owed money for medical bills and how much they owe.

The report also examines variations in medical debt by age, race and ethnicity, health status, and for people with a disability.

The analysis is available through the KFF-Peterson Health System Tracker, an online information hub that monitors and assesses the performance of the U.S. health system.

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