Medical Debt Is As Much a Health Crisis As It Is a Financial Crisis

By Consumers for Quality Care, on October 4, 2023

Medical Debt Is As Much a Health Crisis As It Is a Financial Crisis

In a recent op-ed, health care executives Sachin Jain and Eric Hunter provide insight into America’s growing medical debt crisis.

The piece argues that medical debt isn’t just about money; it’s about health. Consumers with medical debt often delay seeking care for fear of sinking deeper into debt. This dynamic leads to worse health outcomes for those carrying medical debt. Worse, because the medical debt crisis affects Black and Latino Americans disproportionately, the health disparities caused by the debt crisis exacerbate racial disparities in health outcomes.

Jain and Hunter call on leaders to do more to eliminate medical debt. In particular, they propose:

  • Raising awareness about programs like Medicaid. Millions of eligible Americans are not enrolled in the program mainly because they do not know that they are in fact eligible.
  • Requiring nonprofit hospitals to offer financial assistance to patients before sending them a bill. Oregon recently passed a law to do just that. Jain and Hunter want “other states to follow Oregon’s lead.”
  • Supporting efforts to forgive medical debt. The nonprofit RIP Medical Debt buys medical debts of low-income patients for pennies on the dollar and then erases their debts.

CQC remains deeply concerned about medical debt in America and how it hurts consumers and society. CQC urges lawmakers and the Biden administration to address the root causes of medical debt and protect consumers.