Medical debt is squeezing millions of middle-class Americans, report says
Middle-class Americans are the most likely to be saddled with medical debt, with nearly 1 in 4 — or roughly 17 million people — having unpaid medical bills, according to a report shared first with Axios from center-left think tank Third Way.
Driving the news: Middle-income Americans, who earn $50,000-$100,000 a year, are more likely than those with lower incomes to seek care but don't qualify for Medicaid or charity care to help pay for it.
- People with lower incomes are only slightly less likely to have medical debt, if only because they're delaying or not getting care they worry about affording.
- "It's even more tragic in that sense. They'd have even higher levels of debt if they thought they could get the care, but they don't think they can get the care," David Kendall, senior fellow for health and fiscal policy at Third Way, told Axios.
By the numbers: An estimated 23.5% of those in the middle class have unpaid medical bills, as do 22% of those with lower incomes. The rate is about half (13%) for those at higher income levels, who tend to have better health insurance coverage.
- The trend is consistent across most age groups, with the exception of those 65 and older, who qualify for Medicare.
- It's also particularly pronounced in some racial and ethnic groups. For instance, about 37.5% of Black middle-class people have medical debt, which was 8.5 points higher than Black people with low incomes and 16 points higher than Black people with higher incomes.
- An estimated 25.2% of Hispanic middle-class people have medical debt, which is five points higher than Hispanic people with low incomes and seven points higher than Hispanic people with high incomes.
- Meanwhile, an estimated 20.4% of white middle-class people have medical debt, one point lower than white people with low incomes and nine points higher than white people with high incomes.