Medical debt is forcing younger generations to skip rent and mortgage payments

Despite having health insurance, younger generations of Americans find themselves saddled with medical debt.

A new analysis of HealthCare.com’s Medical Debt Survey found that one in four Gen Z (25%) and Millennials (23%) with medical debt have skipped rent or payments mortgages because of their debt.

The analysis further revealed that more than half of millennials (52%) and Gen Xers (48%) with medical debt said their credit rating had suffered. Two in three Gen Zers (68%) who have health insurance but still incurred medical debt said their coverage was not enough to pay for the services they received.

The findings underscore the challenges faced by younger generations, especially youth of color.

Generation Z was born between 1997 and 2012. Generation Y was born between 1981 and 1996, while Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980.

“For people of color, the lack of access to generational wealth further compounds the challenges of employment and insurance coverage,” said Eva Stahl, director of policy at RIP Medical Debt.

“People of color are more likely to have medical debt than their white counterparts,” Stahl said.

According to the U.S. Census, nearly 28% of black households and just under 22% of Hispanic households had medical debt, compared to 17% of non-Hispanic white households.

According to the Urban Institute, one in four people with medical debt in collection counts as a person of color.

Stahl also pointed to studies that show that while 18% of people nationwide have medical debt, the bills are concentrated among people living in the South and in low-income communities.

“Medical debt prevents young people from participating in economic growth – if you’re in debt, you can’t invest in housing, start a family and contribute to your community,” Stahl said.

“These barriers are compounded for people of color who are more likely to work in low-paying jobs, lack access to generational wealth, and are more likely to struggle with chronic health conditions. As a result, medical debt remains a pressing issue in this country and requires policy intervention to make health care more equitable, affordable and accessible,” she said.

Healthcare.com also found that debt triggers vary across generations.

For example, 68% of Gen Zers who have health insurance but still have medical debt said their coverage wasn’t enough for the services they received — or they received the services out of network. .

Less than half of other generations reported a similar experience.

The analysis also revealed that men remain more likely to finance medical debt.

Thirteen percent of men used a crowdfunding source to pay off their medical debt, compared to 8% of women.

Additionally, 15% of men used their retirement savings for medical debt, compared to 11% of women.

People in the lowest income brackets were the most likely to find themselves harassed by debt collectors.

At least half had their bills sent to debt collectors among those with medical debt and income below $10,000 (60%) or between $10,000 and $24,999 (52%).

Twenty-three percent of those with an income of less than $10,000 say they will turn to crowdfunding for funds to pay off their medical debt.

The most common source of funds to pay off debt among the low-income group is their salary, and those with low incomes were more likely to feel anxious about their medical debt.

“In many ways, medical debt is the result of the economic world and the health care world colliding,” Stahl said.

“For younger generations, especially Millennials and Gen Z, medical debt is a double whammy. First, young people between the ages of 18 and 26 face greater job insecurity – and many were still recovering from the Great Recession when millennials lost twice as much wealth as baby boomers.

She concluded:

“These groups of young workers rely heavily on the gig economy and their incomes fluctuate. Additionally, they are more likely to be uninsured and have limited access to affordable health coverage. Finally, young people are also more likely to have large debts – from student debt to credit card debt – compared to older generations,” Stahl added.