Typically, people in their 20s tend to be in good health and don’t have as much of a need to see doctors for chronic health issues or even the occasional aches and pains that come with age, which makes it all the more surprising that young adults incur medical collections debt at a higher rate than older age groups, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.
Why millennials have more medical debt
Researchers, who pulled 2016 credit report data on more than 4 million Americans from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel, found the frequency of medical debt in collections peaked at 11.3%, for 27-year-olds, and remained near that level until people reached their mid-40s.The median amount in collections, $684, also peaked at age 27. In contrast, people in their 60s had fewer medical bills sent to collections despite higher rates of medical spending.
The study suggested several reasons for the higher rate of medical collections among millennials. According to the Census Bureau, Americans ages 25 to 34 lack earning power, with a median income of $36,664 in 2017. More millennials lack health insurance than any other generation, slightly less than 20% according to the report. The study also noted that millennials moved more often than older respondents, increasing the chances for lost bills.
How to handle your medical billing
A separate poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30% of U.S. adults struggle to pay their medical bills. This includes those who have insurance, whether independently or through an employer. Having a medical bill go into collections can negatively impact your credit score, so finding a way to pay the bill is your best way forward to avoid bad credit
Negotiate with your medical provider to reduce or eliminate the balance. Sometimes providers will provide a discount if you ask. Closely review your bill and look for medical billing errors, such as double billing and coding errors. You can also try to work out a payment plan with medical providers to pay your bill in smaller increments over a longer period of time.
If you hire a professional medical bill advocate to help you navigate through a confusing maze of medical bills, you may be able to save thousands of dollars. Once you determine the final bill, consider offering a lump sum settlement to a collection agency. Before you make your offer, figure out what you can reasonably afford to pay and stick with that dollar figure, no matter how much an agency pressures you to pay more. Typical lump sum settlement amounts range from 50% to 80% of the balance owed.