From ACA Pulse, a monthly bulletin that contains information important to health care credit and collection personnel.
Recent study reveals that medical debt impacted credit scores and spending habits for Gen Z and millennial Americans, while lower-income adults had more experience with debt collectors than their wealthier counterparts.
A quarter of Gen Z and millennial Americans reported skipping rent or mortgage payments due to medical debt, according to a survey conducted by healthcare.com.
The responses were gathered from an online poll administered between Oct. 29, 2021, and Nov. 1, 2021, from 2800 people 18 years or older across the country.
The study also found that in addition to ignoring housing finances, Americans skipped purchases due to medical debt. More than half of Generation Z adults (53%), 44% of Generation X adults and 40% of baby boomers said that medical debt prevented them from spending money on traveling. Home improvement was the top area that millennials missed out on due to medical debt, and around half of millennials and Gen Z adults also said that their medical debt hurt their credit score.
While respondents from all generations expressed concern about medical debt affecting their ability to save money, millennials were the most likely to say they were somewhat or extremely concerned (67%).
People from different generations had different strategies for dealing with medical debt. For example, 22% of baby boomers planned to withdraw funds from their retirement accounts, whereas 22% of Gen Zers planned to use crowdfunding.
Men and women reported that they pay their health care expenses differently across generations as well, with men being more likely to use crowdfunding, credit cards and retirement funds. Men were also more inclined than women to strive to reduce their debt.
The causes for medical-related debt varied among the different generations, with 68% of Gen Zers with health insurance indicating that their plan did not cover the treatments they obtained whether in-network or out-of-network. In comparison, just around half of the other generations reflected this concern.
Nearly a third of Gen Zers and 27% of millennials reported their medical debt is the consequence of a billing error, whereas Gen Xers (21%) and baby boomers (20%) are less inclined to believe this.
Additionally, the survey discovered that different medical conditions resulted in different health care expenses for different age groups. For Gen Z and millennials, the most common cause of medical debt was seeking treatment following an accident or injury. In contrast, chronic sickness, such as cancer and heart disease, was the leading cause of medical debt among Gen X adults and baby boomers. Individuals with lower income, unsurprisingly, reported they struggled more with medical debt. Participants from all income categories said their paycheck was their primary source of funding for paying off medical expenses.
One out of every five Americans earning between $10,000 and $25,000 each year said their debt causes extreme stress, according ot the study. The study also revealed that 60% of adults with incomes under $10,000 and 52% of adults with incomes between $10,000 and $24,999 have had their invoices forwarded to debt collectors.
The survey findings suggest that younger generations, in particular face substantial challenges in terms of health care expenses and medical debt. According to previous data from Discover Personal Loans, approximately 75% of Americans have medical debt of more than $2,000, as Pulse previously reported.
Although the issue of medical debt among all generations continues to persist, the study suggests that policymakers and health care stakeholders may be able to help alleviate the financial burden of medical expenses.