Medical Debt Facts

America’s $1 Trillion Medical Debt Crisis

Medical debt belongs at the center of every conversation about our broken healthcare system. Everyone knows someone who struggles to pay their medical bills. Millions of responsible Americans confront $1 trillion in medical debt that produces hardships for individuals, families, communities, and our nation as a whole.

Fast Facts about Medical Debt:
  1. Millions of responsible Americans annually exhaust their life savings to pay doctor, hospital and pharmacy bills, including “surprise medical bills” they thought their health insurance would cover.
  2. Medical debt contributes to more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies.
  3. Medical debt destroys the financial stability of large segments of America’s most vulnerable communities in every state — the sick, the elderly and the poor.
  4. Medical debt particularly impacts the middle class, driving into poverty many families who already are barely getting by (most families are $400 away from financial hardship).
  5. Fully one-third of all Go-Fund-Me campaigns are pleas for help in meeting medical bills.
  6. Our veterans are not safe from healthcare related bills, collectively shouldering more than $6 billion in “emergent” (ambulance and emergency room) medical debt. reports that

  • The United States spends more per capita (per person) on health care than any other country on earth.
  • About 1 in 10 adults delay medical care because of its cost.
  • An unexpected $500 medical bill is too much for many people to pay, let alone pay in a timely manner.
  • One in five, or 20 percent, of all working-age Americans with health insurance have trouble paying their medical bills.
  • More than 60 percent of insured Americans with medical bills will deplete most or all of their savings to pay these bills.
  • About 60 percent of the people with problems paying medical bills were contacted by a collection agency in the past year.

Health insurance annually has become less affordable since 2015, when the Affordable Care Act went into effect. Based on the research at RIP, 43 million Americans now have about $75 billion in past-due medical debt on their credit reports. The total amount of reported and unreported unpaid medical debt in America at about $1 trillion over ten years.

For more insights about how our existing healthcare system creates  medical debt and a clear-eyed look at the range of proposed solutions, read End Medical Debt.