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Featured Clinical Reviews

January 11, 2022

New State Consumer Protections Against Medical Debt

Author Affiliations
  • 1Boston University School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Community Catalyst, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta
JAMA. 2022;327(2):121-122. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.23061

Medical debt represents a substantial financial issue for many US health care consumers, affecting an estimated 19% of households and exceeding all other forms of debt.1 Among those with medical debt, the mean amount owed is $12 430 and the median is $2000.1 Medical debt is more common among historically marginalized communities and in 2017, an estimated 27.9% of households with a Black householder and 21.7% of households with a member of Hispanic origin had outstanding medical bills.1 Oncologists suggested the concept of “financial toxicity” to describe how the cost of medical care can cause financial distress and result in personal bankruptcy.2 The problem of medical debt is not limited to oncology, but rather applies across the medical system, and also impinges health care access, adherence, mental health, and health outcomes.3

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