18% drop since 2020 in people with reported medical debt

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. leverage / ˈlɛv ər ɪdʒ / (v.) – to use something to achieve something new or better

    Many businesses leveraged social media to become famous among young clients.

  2. persistent / pərˈsɪs tənt / (adj.) – continuing to do something even though it’s difficult

    He’s a persistent salesman, so his team achieved its sales target.

  3. penalize / ˈpin lˌaɪz / (v.) – to punish someone for breaking a rule or a law

    The player was penalized for punching another player.

  4. credit score / ˈkrɛd ɪt skɔr / (n.) – a record that shows someone’s ability to pay debts on time

    I was able to get a housing loan because of my good credit score.

  5. utility / yuˈtɪl ɪ ti / (n.) – a service used by the public, such as an electricity or gas supply

    Almost half of my monthly income goes to rent and utility bills.


Read the text below.

The number of people with medical debt on their credit reports fell by 8.2 million — or 17.9% — between 2020 and 2022, according to a report from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

White House officials said in a separate draft report that the two-year drop likely stems from their policies. Among the programs they say contributed to less debt was an expansion of the Obama-era healthcare law that added 4.2 million people with some form of health insurance. Also, local governments are leveraging $16 million in coronavirus relief funds to wipe out $1.5 billion worth of medical debt.

There has also been a persistent effort by the CFPB to reduce medical debt. The major credit rating agencies said last year that they will no longer include in their reports medical debts under $500 or debts that were already repaid. The agencies will also extend the time it takes to add medical debt to reports from six months to one year, possibly giving families more time to repay before being penalized with lower credit scores.

White House officials said the decline in debt could reduce fears about medical bills that can prevent people from making needed doctor appointments and filling pharmaceutical prescriptions.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing that Biden’s policies played “a critical role in reducing the burden of medical debt for millions of American families.”

While economic measures such as the unemployment rate and inflation can swing up and down, the decline in medical debt shows that steady progress is being made. Some 13.5% of the 279 million people with credit reports had at least one medical debt, down from 16.4% in 2020 and 19.4% in 2014.

Still, unpaid medical bills account for more than half of all debt in collections, according to the White House report. As a result, medical debt exceeds credit cards, personal loans and utilities and phone bills combined.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • In your opinion, are health care services in your country affordable or expensive? Discuss.
  • According to officials, fears about medical bills prevent people from getting the necessary health care services. Do you have this kind of fear? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Local governments in the U.S. are leveraging $16 million of coronavirus relief funds to wipe out medical debt. Do you think other countries should do the same? In what other programs should governments assign COVID relief funds? Discuss.
  • The White House press secretary said that Biden’s policies played “a critical role.” In your opinion, what policies should your government implement to further improve public services (ex. education, health care)? Discuss.