Americans who have suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic are also the most likely to be saddled with medical bill problems and debt, according to results from a new Commonwealth Fund survey. Adults ages 19 to 64 who contracted the virus, lost income, or lost their job-based health insurance coverage also reported higher rates of problems with medical bills and debt than people not affected by the pandemic in these ways. People who lost income experienced medical bill problems at the highest rates, especially those who also tested positive or became sick with COVID-19 or lost coverage.
The nationally representative survey of adults 19 to 64 fielded between March 9 and June 8, 2021, offers a glimpse of health care coverage and affordability in the United States during one of the most challenging economic periods in recent history. It examined pandemic-related coverage losses, current uninsured rates, and Americans’ ongoing struggles to pay their medical bills.
Key findings include:
- Black and Latinx/Hispanic adults were more likely to have medical bill problems and a loss of income during the pandemic.
- More than half (55%) of Black and nearly half (44%) of Latinx/Hispanic adults said they had medical bill problems and debt, compared to one- third (32%) of white adults.
- Overall, one-third of U.S. adults said their income fell during the pandemic, but Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and low-income adults were particularly hard hit. Forty-four percent of Black adults, and 45 percent of Latinx/Hispanic adults reported a loss of income.
- Insured and uninsured adults alike struggle to pay their medical bills, but those without coverage face greater challenges.
- More than one-third of insured adults and half of uninsured adults said they had a medical bill problem or were paying off medical debt.
- One-third (34%) of working-age adults with employer coverage reported medical bill or debt problems, as did nearly half (46%) of adults with individual and marketplace coverage.