A Quarter of Young Americans Say Medical Debt Forces Them to Skip House Payments

Nearly a quarter of millennials and Gen Zers — essentially, all adults born during or after the early 1980s — have had a difficult time making housing payments as a result of medical debt, according to a HealthCare.com poll published earlier this month.

Twenty-three percent of millennials (broadly defined as those born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s) said that they’ve had to skip rent or mortgage payments because of medical debts, along with 25 percent of Gen Zers (those born from the mid 1990s through the early 2010s).

Medical debts aren’t just a problem for people who are uninsured, either — 45 percent of millennials said that their health insurance didn’t fully cover services they received, resulting in debt. More than two-thirds of Gen Zers (68 percent) said that they also have substantial medical debt as a result of being underinsured.

Medical debt makes it difficult for younger Americans to use their credit, the survey revealed. Thirty-seven percent of Gen Zers said debts from medical expenses negatively affected their credit scores, along with more than one in two millennials (52 percent).

Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of HealthCare.com, noted that people facing medical debts should be vigilant when it comes to having their benefits explained to them.

“Folks should understand their Explanation of Benefits and get everyone – bill collectors, insurance firms, and your doctor – on the same page,” Smedsrud said in an email to Truthout. “Double-check your statement for accuracy and remember you may be able to negotiate a discount.”

Nurses’ unions across the country have pointed out that the U.S.’s for-profit health care system is the root of the crisis, which has devastated both patients and health care workers, particularly over the course of the pandemic.

“Nurses will tell you we are failing because we have let the interests of corporations and our hospital employers dictate our country’s response to this virus. Their goal is profit, not saving lives,” said National Nurses United President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez earlier this year.

The results from the HealthCare.com poll mirror the results of a survey published in December, which highlights how the medical debt crisis is actually getting worse. In a Gallup and West Health poll, around 30 percent of Americans said that they have skipped getting health care when it was needed because they couldn’t afford the costs — a figure that is up from 18 percent when the same question was asked in February 2021.