Survey Finds 56 Percent of Americans Owe Medical Debt Largely Due to Emergency Room Visits

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Roughly 1 in 4 people with unpaid medical bills owe more than $10,000, a leading resource for information about cost-effective health insurance plans and Medicare options, has published a new survey report that provides insight into the medical debt crisis in America. The study generated responses from 1,250 American adults and highlights key factors surrounding this issue.

The report shows that more than half of American adults have some unpaid medical bills. Additionally, 23 percent of respondents with medical debt owe more than $10,000. Six percent of people in debt owe between $50,001 and $100,000, and 5 percent owe more than $100,000. Conversely, 55 percent of respondents from this group owe between $501 and $10,000.

According to the study, the leading source of medical debt is emergency room visits. Forty-four percent of respondents say their unpaid healthcare bills are from treatment delivered in the emergency room. Other top reasons for incurring medical debt include inpatient care at hospitals, treatment from specialists, and tests or procedures performed at a lab or other facility. Thirty-six percent of respondents say they have unpaid medical bills due to hospitalization, 30 percent say they are in debt because of specialist care and diagnostic tests.

"If you find yourself with medical debt, it's always a good idea to speak to the department that is sending you bills," healthcare advisor Dr. Noor Ali says. "See if there is a way to negotiate the bill down to a more manageable amount. Most larger facilities also have a financial hardship department that can help set up a payment plan to make paying off the debt easier."

Survey results indicate that both insured and uninsured Americans report medical debt at similar rates. Fifty-nine percent of uninsured survey respondents have medical debt, compared to 56 percent of those with insurance. Consequently, many Americans with medical debt are also forced into a cycle of financial hardships. Forty-six percent of respondents say they have delayed buying a home and 43 percent are unable to save for retirement. Similarly, 23 percent of respondents have put off getting married and 22 percent have delayed starting a family. commissioned this study to examine the effects of the medical debt crisis in America. The study was administered via the online survey platform Pollfish starting on February 18, 2022 and ending February 19, 2022. To view the complete report, please visit

ABOUT AFFORDABLEHEALTHINSURANCE.COM provides accessible and user-friendly resources to help consumers make informed decisions about health care coverage. The free platform offers provider reviews, survey reports, articles, and advice from industry experts. Website visitors can also access a comprehensive search tool to find health insurance plans across all 50 states. To learn more, visit

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Kristen Scatton
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