March 21, 2022

As Medical Debt Stacks Up, Many People in Their Early 60s Count the Days Until They Are Eligible for Medicare

As we age, we typically need more health care and often have higher medical costs. Unsurprisingly, middle-aged adults are therefore more likely than young adults to have debt related to those health expenses. Fortunately, the percentage of adults with significant medical debt decreases when people reach Medicare age.

After analyzing data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a nationally representative survey of U.S. households, the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation have found that 12% of adults ages 50 to 64 report having significant medical debt, compared to 6% for those ages 65 to 79.

Most of the 23 million adults with significant medical debt owe over $1,000, and about 3 million (13%) owe more than $10,000.

People with disabilities, those in worse health, and poor or near-poor adults are more likely to have significant medical debt. Black Americans and people living in the South or in Medicaid non-expansion states are also more likely to face this financial burden.

“Even for people with health insurance, a serious injury or illness or one major health event can cost thousands of dollars out-of-pocket due to denied claims, deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “When Medicare kicks in at age 65, it often comes as a huge relief.”

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