Tackling medical debt

Surgical tools are seen
Almost two out of every five American adults are living with some form of debt related to cost of health care.
Leon Neal | Getty Images 2018

Many people are just one medical emergency away from a financial crisis. 

A hundred million Americans live with medical debt, or about 41 percent of adults, according to a survey by Kaiser Family Foundation.

To pay off medical bills, many people have taken on other debt, including credit cards, personal bank loans, or loans from family and friends. Medical debt creates stress and prevents people from renting homes and buying cars. It makes people less likely to seek the medical care they need. It contributes to bankruptcy.

The number of Minnesotans with medical debt is low compared to other parts of the country, mostly due to state health insurance programs for people with low incomes. About two percent of Minnesota households have medical debt in collections compared to a national average of 13 percent. But that rate is double in communities of color.

MPR News host Angela Davis spoke about tackling medical debt with a financial counselor, an elder law attorney and the leader of a national nonprofit organization that relieves medical debt. 

Guests: 

  • Allison Sesso is the president and CEO of RIP Medical Debt, a national nonprofit organization that uses donations to buy and forgive medical debt. 

  • Kim Miller is a certified financial counselor with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. 

  • Laura Orr is a senior attorney in elder law at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services based in St. Paul.

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