BUHealth: New KFF/Urban Institute project on medical debt

I do not forward a lot of other people’s news reports, but this one from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) on medical dept is worth pondering. Here is a summary quote:

“more than 100 million people in the US – including 41% of adults – are now beset by health care debt”

Noam Levey’s email broadcasts are always insightful. Full KFF report on line is only about 20 minute read.

Readers from Europe can appropriately chuckle and sigh about our lousy insurance system.

Remarkably, US bankruptcies and credit card debt went DOWN during the pandemic but are now soaring. Total consumer debt is approaching $16 trillion. From a report in 2021: “8 in 10 Americans have some form of consumer debt, and the average debt in America is $38,000 not including mortgage debt.”

From: Noam Levey <NoamL@kff.org>
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2022 6:19 AM
To: Noam Levey <NoamL@kff.org>
Subject: New project on medical debt

Good day,

It’s been a little while since I’ve written, but I wanted to alert you to a new project we’re launching this morning with NPR and CBS News called Diagnosis: Debt, which examines America’s medical debt crisis.

The first installment in our series, which draws on a new KFF poll conducted for the project and original Urban Institute research, reveals that more than 100 million people in the US – including 41% of adults – are now beset by health care debt, a number significantly larger than is generally realized. Today’s story looks at the awesome scale of this problem and how it is upending countless lives across the country. Accompanying today’s launch is a feature profiling a group of Americans burdened by medical debt, including a mother of twins in Chicago forced to work double shifts and borrow from family, a retired Virginia couple driven into bankruptcy and a medical student in Texas harassed for years by debt collectors for a $131 exam she was given after being sexual assaulted.

You can find the project here: https://khn.org/news/article/diagnosis-debt-investigation-100-million-americans-hidden-medical-debt/

Future stories in the series will explore the burden of medical debt on people with cancer, how this debt is deepening racial disparities and how a burgeoning credit industry is feeding off patients’ inability to pay their bills. I hope you find this first installment interesting, and if so, you’ll consider sharing it with others. And I hope you’ll follow this ongoing project as we publish additional stories throughout the year examining this uniquely American affliction. Thanks, as always, for reading.

All best,


Noam N. Levey  /  Senior Correspondent

Kaiser Health News  /  Washington, DC

nlevey@kff.org / @NoamLevey / +1 202 247 0811

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is the newsroom at KFF (the Kaiser Family Foundation), producing in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of KFF’s three major operating programs. KFF is an endowed non-profit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

Stay connected with:

khn.org / email / twitter / facebook

kff.org / email / twitter / facebook

Randall P. Ellis, Ph.D. (he/him/his)
Professor, Department of Economics, Boston University
ellisrp@bu.edu    +1 617-353-2741       http://blogs.bu.edu/ellisrp/

Vaccinate, avoid unneeded risks, love the outdoors, be optimistic, work for positive change.

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