Health & Wealth

Health and Wealth: Why Americans are Drowning in Medical Debt

$4.3 trillion is spent on U.S. healthcare every year. The government covers around 35% of that — paying $1.5 trillion into the system. 

Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States and affects almost a third of working Americans. While 90% have some form of insurance, high deductibles and other forms of cost sharing lead to charges that make it difficult to manage household budgets.

This timely conversation brings together experts to discuss the business of U.S. healthcare and options for those facing challenges in managing their bills.  

Some key figures about U.S. healthcare and medical debt:

  • The U.S. government spends 16.6% of GDP on healthcare — more than any other high-income country
  • U.S. spending per person is two times higher than the average of $4,986 in the world’s wealthiest nations
  • At 76 years, Americans have the lowest life expectancy and highest rates of avoidable deaths 
  • Americans have $220 billion in outstanding medical debt
  • 15% of households owed medical debt in 2021 
  • 14 million people, or 6% of adults, owe over $1,000 in medical debt  
  • About 3 million people, or 1% of adults, owe medical debt of more than $10,000 
  • 66.5% of bankruptcies are caused by medical debt — that’s 530,000 cases a year

Health and Wealth: Why Americans are Drowning in Medical Debt is a live event hosted by Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio. He’s joined by MPR host Angela Davis, health economist Jennifer Schultz, consumer rights advocate Allison Sesso and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.