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Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

Young people have more medical debt than older people, even though they tend to spend much less on health care, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

By the numbers: About 16% of consumers have an unpaid medical bill, the study says, adding up to roughly $81 billion. Most of those individual bills were for less than $600.

Screenshot via Health Affairs

The big picture: "Medical debt," in this case, means an unpaid medical bill that has been referred to a collection agency. The top-line finding here is that people without health insurance are more likely to have outstanding medical bills.

  • There's a direct correlation: The number of people with medical debt, and the size of that debt, were both bigger in areas with more uninsured people.
  • Lower-income households also have more medical debt, as do younger people — two other factors that correlate with how likely you are to have insurance.
  • You can see in the chart above that medical debt all but disappears after age 65, when Medicare kicks in, even though seniors rack up the most health care bills overall.

But insurance isn't a failsafe. Because most unpaid bills aren't catastrophically large, they're well within many people's deductibles. So, younger or lower-income people with high-deductible plans could still have to face a collection agency if they need to use their coverage.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.

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