(HealthDay News) — About 15% of nonelderly US adults surveyed said they or their families have past-due medical debt, according to data released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The data come from 9494 adults (ages 18 to 64 years) who participated in the June 2022 round of the Urban Institute Health Reform Monitoring Survey.

Among adults who owed past-due medical debt to hospitals, 27.9% owed all of their debt to hospitals, and 45.1% owed their debt to hospitals and other providers.

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Most adults with past-due medical debt owed at least $1000, but more than 20% owed at least $5000. Compared with adults who had only debt from nonhospital providers, adults with past-due hospital bills were more likely to have much higher total amounts of medical debt. Most adults (60.9%) with past-due hospital bills were contacted by a collection agency.

Past-due medical debt was twice as likely for adults with disabilities (29.1%) than for those without disabilities (12.5%). Compared with White adults (12.8%), Black (25.9%) and Latino (19.1%) adults were more likely to report past-due medical debt.

Individuals with incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level were just as likely to be referred to debt collection and to have received discounted care as higher-income earners.

“These findings highlight the persistent challenge of medical debt in America and the role of hospitals as a key source of that debt,” Michael Karpman, a principal research associate at the Urban Institute, said in a statement. “Understanding the experiences of people with past-due medical bills can inform discussions around new consumer protections to alleviate debt burdens.”

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