Got surprise medical bills? So do 400,000 others
The rate was even higher-one in five-among lower income families, minority populations, people who reported being in poor health and those with less than a high school education.
"It is a myth that everyone gets medical care regardless of ability to pay," said Joel Cantor, director of the health policy center. "Bill collectors are coming after you, it can hurt your credit rating and it's associated with bankruptcy. Of course, if you're sick and can't work, that impacts your income, and it becomes a vicious cycle."
"A surprise bill of a couple hundred dollars can throw families off, especially if they are living paycheck to paycheck," he said. "If you're at a higher income, you can absorb that more easily, but a large bill to that person might be a couple thousand dollars. We see the bigger impact among people with less capacity to absorb the financial shock."
A federal consumer report found that 20 percent of Americans have at least one medical debt collection item in their credit reports.