Spotlight Statistics About Medical Debt You Need to Know

Nurse showing medical report to senior woman on digital tablet
Paige Kutilek
|5 min read

Financial Assistance

Regardless of what lands you or a loved one in the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office—perhaps for an expected medical emergency or treatment for a chronic illness—you will leave with medical bills. Unfortunately, medical bills can leave large dents in your finances, sometimes even causing medical debt. And for people in the midst of recovery, the added financial strain can distract from the healing process.

To combat this stress, educate yourself on how this type of debt impacts your finances, affects your health care, and changes your lifestyle. Learn your options for dealing with debt.

Facts about medical debt


Medical expenses account for 62% of all bankruptcies in America. Of those who filed for bankruptcy due to medical expenses, 72% had some type of health insurance. Balances owed after insurance coverage combined with unexpected and costly out-of-pocket expenses can devastate a family budget, leaving few desirable options.

The uninsured

For families with low incomes or who lack health or dental insurance, a medical bill of $500 or less still presents a major problem for someone who is living paycheck to paycheck.

Government funded health insurance programs

Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have eligibility requirements and restrictions. Additional programs for the uninsured or low income vary by state. Medicare is a social insurance program funded by a payroll tax that provides health care coverage for people who are 65 and older.

Affordable care act

Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, an estimated 20 million more people now have health insurance, reducing the number of uninsured people in the US. Still, there are 33 million Americans, or 10.4% of the population, who were uninsured in 2014. This number includes young adults, working adults, immigrants, low-income people in certain states where Medicaid hasn’t expanded or who were ineligible for it, and children.

Health repercussions

Often the financial strain of extensive medical care costs can lead to people cutting corners in their healthcare management. As a result of medical bill issues, The Burden of Medical Debt report shows that 65% of participants postponed going to the dentist; 62% used over the counter drugs in lieu of seeing a doctor when sick; 43% did not fill a needed prescription; 43% did not get medical treatment recommended by a doctor; and 34% regularly skipped doses of medical treatment.

Lifestyle changes

The weight of expensive medical bills can result in lifestyle shifts in order to shoulder the high costs. According to The Burden of Medical Debt report, medical bill problems have caused 72% of participants to cut back on major household purchases; 70% state they have reduced spending on basic household necessities; 41% claimed that an individual from the household needed to take on more work to compensate.

How to pay your medical bills and avoid medical debt

1. Crowdfunding

Creating an online fundraiser to share your struggle to pay your medical expenses is an effective way to get funds immediately. It’s free, and it can be used in combination with other fundraiser events and activities. Online fundraising draws upon your social networks from different areas of your life. It will provide you with daily payouts, emotional support, and kind words from your online communities, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of empowerment that comes only from asking for help. Take care of yourself and those you love. Start your free fundraiser now.  

2. Bank loan

The traditional go-to solution has been applying for a bank loan or a line of credit. Borrowing a sum of money to pay the medical bills transfers your debt to a creditor, to whom you owe the sum with interest. Applying and qualifying for a loan can take time, maybe more time than you have when your living expenses become increasingly difficult to afford. While borrowing money seems like a solution, it will mean paying an interest rate on top of the total loan amount with your monthly schedule of other bills.

3. Negotiate your bills

Professional medical bill negotiators work on clients’ behalf to resolve billing issues or negotiate lower medical bills, often in exchange for a portion of your savings. This option may appeal to you if you don’t have the emotional or mental resources to take on this project, but it’s not clear how much you would save. You could try to negotiate your own bill and ask for an itemized statement, question the costs, and request discounts, and log all your communications down to document the decisions.

Resources for medical debt relief

Considering these statistics, you may wonder how you can find assistance with expensive medical bills or health-care related debt. Crowdfunding has emerged as a powerful tool for fundraising by pooling donations from a large group of people. The crowdfunding model relies on the interconnectivity of the internet by tapping into your social networks.

Medical crowdfunding has recently developed into a popular model to help people offset high medical bills or medical debt. As the leader in free online fundraising for medical expenses, GoFundMe takes pride helping you and your family to raise the money you need. Start your free fundraiser today to remain in control of your finances.

Start a medical fundraiser

Paige Kutilek

About Paige Kutilek

I'm keen on creating meaningful and thoughtful content that will have an impact. I'm a dedicated individual with a creative touch who is always eager to learn more. Lover of cats, avocados, and tea.

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