Millennials And Medical Debt
Millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000 – make up a large part of the current US working population. Unfortunately, this age group also has the biggest medical debt burden.
The millennial generation is noted for breaking with tradition, with many people in this age group opting to work in non-standard careers, embracing the gig economy, and displaying strong preferences for mobile work arrangements.
- While Millennials may be the virtual generation their health care needs are very real.
- A larger proportion of millennials have unpaid medical bills outstanding than their older counterparts.
- Although younger people tend to suffer from fewer chronic conditions than middle-aged adults, people of all ages can be involved in accidents and fall ill for other reasons.
- There are also several serious illnesses Including cancer that affect people of all ages.
- Many millennials have been taken by surprise and saddled with high healthcare costs. With this generation being underinsured, the financial consequences can be serious
Illness isn’t something that most people under 40 think about on a regular basis. Doctor’s visits, hospitalization and repaying your bariatric surgery loan may sound like “old people problems” - but are they?
Many millennials have been unpleasantly surprised when they do find themselves needing the services of a doctor or hospital - because many younger Americans don’t have health insurance or the means to pay their medical bills.
Millennials face a unique set of challenges when it comes to healthcare costs. Here are some statistics that will put the situation in context.
- Medical debts in collections are highest for Amercians aged 27 at 11.3%. That’s according to a 2016 report by the CFPB Consumer Credit Panel.
- This figure stays high for people in their 30s and early 40s even though this age group is young and generally healthy.
- The Urban Institute reports that 21.1% of those 18 to 24 and 27.8% of those 25 to 34 had past-due medical debts last year.
Less Medical Spending, More Medical Collections Debt
The statistics above highlight a strange paradox when it comes to medical collections in the United States.
Younger Americans consume fewer medical services - yet they have more medical debt in collection than their parents’ generation.
- Medical collections are healthcare-related debts that have remained unpaid for 90 to 180 days.
- Once a healthcare provider sees no proof that you intend to pay a bill they are entitled to hand it over to a debt collection agency. This is not a desirable outcome for any patient.
- Medical collections cause your credit score to drop as soon as they are reported to the three main credit bureaus. This can make it difficult to apply for almost every form of credit.
Why do millennials - who are in the healthiest years of their life - seem to have so much medical debt in collection? There are several reasons for this worrying trend.
- Going Uninsured - Some younger Americans forego medical insurance for financial reasons and also because they assume that illness is something that happens to older people.
- Lower Earnings - Millennials tend to have high levels of student debt and less job security than previous generations.
- Insufficient Savings - A 2018 statistic revealed that the average millennial couldn’t afford a $1000 emergency. A low saving rate in this age group means that some patients simply don’t have the means to pay for medical care.
- Financial Confusion - Medical bills can be confusing for many people - especially younger patients who aren’t accustomed to visiting their doctor or undergoing hospital treatment on a regular basis. Not knowing how these bills work and what to do if you can’t pay could end up costing you thousands of dollars - and your good credit score.
How Can Millennials Manage Medical Debt Better?
Medical debts don’t have to turn into a financial nightmare. Here are some of the steps you can take to manage your debt simply and easily.
Get Health Insurance - Being under 40 doesn’t make you immune to illness. An affordable health insurance premium will give you the cover you need without breaking the bank.
- Build An Emergency Fund - Everyone should have 3-6 months’ expenses stashed away in an accessible interest-bearing account. If you save 20% of your income for one to two years you’ll be comfortably in that range.
- Medical loans - A secured or unsecured medical loan will help you cover your healthcare cost - but make sure the APR and associated fees don’t break your budget. Plastic surgery loans are a great solution for elective procedures.
- Negotiate With Creditors - If your medical debts arrive at a time when you’re insured or don’t have sufficient funds you can always negotiate. Since medical providers usually get pennies on the dollar from collectors, they may be willing to settle with you for a lower amount or arrange a payment plan.
- Try An Advocate - Sometimes the process of negotiating and checking your medical bills for errors can be very stressful and time-consuming. A medical bill advocate will handle the paperwork and tiny details for you - but be prepared to pay for these services.
- Don’t Forget Your Pet - Veterinary loans can help you pay for surgical procedures and other treatments that your dog or cat needs.
Millennials face unique financial and healthcare challenges - and it’s best to take proactive steps to manage medical debts.
Accordingly, having health insurance, building up sufficient savings, negotiating with healthcare providers, and seeking the assistance of a medical bill advocate are some of the best strategies to follow.