Who is most likely to have medical debt?

The number of working-age adult Americans reporting that they had past-due medical debt decreased between 2012 and 2015 from 30 percent to 25 percent. That's likely in part due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as the improvement in the economy.

Of course, 25 percent is still a significant number. Even people with insurance often have high-deductible plans that require large out-of-pocket payments that can put a dent in their bank account. Things could get worse, depending on what Congress decides to do about health care coverage.

Some people are more likely to have overdue medical bills than others. Not surprisingy, income has a lot to do with it. People making under $35,000 a year are particularly at risk. So are younger people (Gen X'rs and Millennials). Of course, age often coincides with income.

Those who are financially wise are at lower risk of medical debt. That doesn't mean having an MBA from Wharton. In fact, a formal education in finance doesn't seem to impact the likelihood of medical debt. However, just having the financial wherewithal to put money aside for an emergency can lessen the chance that unexpected medical bills will put you in debt.

Interestingly, geography also plays a role. Of the ten states with the largest percentage of people with overdue medical debt, nearly all are in the South. None are here in the West or in the Northeast.

Of course, overwhelming medical debt can happen to anyone, anywhere. There are ways that you can work with providers to reduce that debt and avoid collection efforts and damage to your credit score. The sooner you do that, the better chance you'll have of preventing that debt from destroying your finances.

Source: CBS News, "These Americans suffer from the most overdue medical debt," Aimee Picchi, March 01, 2017

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