survey shows how little it takes to end up in collections

The finances of many Americans are so fragile, even a few thousand dollars in unforeseen medical expenses can drive them from the doctor to the debt collector, a new poll shows.

Nearly half have outstanding medical bills or debt


46% of a survey respondents have outstanding medical bills or medical debt.

The majority of those respondents said they had those medical bills sent to collections


56% of survey respondents said their medical bills were sent to collections.

Most survey respondents claimed to have between $1,000 and $5,000 worth of medical debt


32% of survey respondents with medical debt said they had between $1,000 and $5,000.

3 out of 5 with medical debt said they never tried to negotiate with a hospital billing department


60% of those with medical debt said they've never tried to negotiate their bills.

Do you have outstanding medical bills or medical debt?YesNo
Percentage of respondents45.87%54.13%
Have your medical bills been sent to collections?YesNoUnsure
Percentage of respondents56.16%30.78%13.06%
How much do you owe?Percentage of respondents
Less than $50013.77%
$500 to less than $1,00018.55%
$1,000 to less than $5,00031.93%
$5,000 to less than $10,00014.91%
$10,000 to less than $50,00015.30%
$50,000 to less than $100,0003.06%
$100,000 to less than $150,0000.96%
$150,000 or more1.53%
What type of health insurance do you have?Percentage of respondents
Medicare or Medicaid36.17%
Self-purchased through an exchange8.90%
What is the primary source of your medical debt?Percentage of respondents
Diagnostic tests21.68%
Emergency room18.95%
Doctor visits14.84%
Outpatient services10.94%
Dental care4.30%
Prescription drugs3.71%
Nursing home/long-term care0.78%
How did your insurance company respond to your medical bills?Told me I received out-of-network careDenied my claim
Percentage of respondents55.80%44.20%
Have you tried negotiating to lower the cost of your bills?NoYes, I tried to negotiate on my ownYes, I used a medical bills advocate
Percentage of respondents60.52%34.55%4.94%
Were you successful in this negotiation?YesNo
Percentage of respondents27.47%72.53%
Are you currently on a payment plan?YesNo
Percentage of respondents36.50%63.50%

Methodology: surveyed 1,186 people and asked nine questions related to their medical debt. People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted from June 17, 2020 to July 6, 2020.