US medical debt high, but different geographically

HealthDay News – According to a study published in the July 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average medical debt is higher for people living in the south and in zip codes in the lowest income deciles.

Raymond Kluender, Ph.D., of Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues measured the amount of medical debt by country and by geographic region and income bracket, and how it was related to Medicaid’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Consumer credit reports for January 2009 to June 2020 (reflecting care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) were analyzed.

The researchers found that as of June 2020, 17.8 percent of individuals had medical debt (averaging $ 429), of which 13 percent had accrued the previous year. The median medical debt inventory varied by region ($ 616 in the south versus $ 167 in the northeast) and by zip code income deciles ($ 677 versus $ 126). The states that expanded Medicaid in 2014 saw a decrease in average medical debt over the period that was 34 percentage points higher (from $ 330 to $ 175) than the states that did not expand Medicaid (from $ 613 to $ 550) .

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Taken together, the results on income and regional differences show that people with the lowest postcode income deciles in states that did not expand Medicaid had the highest medical debts in the country at the start of the study period and also had the largest subsequent increases in average medical debt “Write the authors.

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