The Pulse

Paying Off Medical Debt Is Threatening American's Retirement Savings

Americans are delaying non-emergency medical care in higher numbers than last year

A national survey conducted by Discover Personal Loans has found that financial stress is impacting how Americans seek and pay for medical care.

RIVERWOODS, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– As Americans find themselves living through a turbulent economic period, many people with medical debt are delaying non-emergency medical care in higher numbers than they were a year ago. Specifically, Americans with medical debt are putting off seeing a specialist (52%), being seen for a sickness (41%) and undergoing treatment plans recommended by their doctor (31%). Almost half of Americans with medical debt (47%) say that it will take them more than a year to pay down their current medical debt.

Paying off medical debt has forced many Americans to forgo other daily expenses at higher rates than last year, including saving for retirement or falling behind on credit card payments:

Financial commitments delayed due to medical debt

2022

2021

Stop spending on dining and entertainment

48%

35%

Skip vacations

42%

37%

Pay the minimum payment, and no more, for my credit cards

42%

23%

Skip adding to my emergency savings

36%

28%

Skip saving for retirement

32%

32%

Stop paying other bills

27%

37%

Stop saving for my child’s college

14%

20%

Feeling The Pressure

“Consumers are feeling more pressure to juggle their bills in order to make ends meet,” said Matt Lattman, vice president of personal loans at Discover. “Skipping things like paying bills, getting seen for an illness or building an emergency savings fund can have long-term effects. There are ways to finance some of these things that will reduce longer term impacts.”

Finances surrounding medical debt are stressful in multiple ways. For instance, 62% of people with medical debt said that figuring out how to pay for medical care causes them anxiety, while 32% say that understanding which costs insurance is going to cover is a source of anxiety.

In addition, Americans have been saving less this year. When asked how much money they have saved, not including retirement accounts, the number of respondents with less than $1,000 in savings jumped from 31% to 39% in 2022. Smaller savings impact Americans’ ability to pay for unexpected medical expenses, which can lead to financial hardship. This year, 55% of Americans said that they are ill-prepared to cover the cost of an unexpected medical bill, up 12 percentage points from 2021. Therefore, Americans need alternative solutions to cover medical expenses.

“Personal loans are one of many tools that are available to consumers to help them through this economic environment,” added Lattman. “A loan can help you pay off medical debt or cover unexpected medical expenses while the cost of living is higher due to inflation.”

 

 

 

About the Survey
A national survey of 1,521 U.S. residents ages 18 and up was commissioned by Discover and conducted by Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI), an independent research firm, between May 18 and May 30, 2022. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/-3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
About Discover
Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a digital banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover® card, America’s cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its banking business. It operates the Discover Global Network® comprised of Discover Network, with millions of merchants and cash access locations; PULSE®, one of the nation’s leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International®, a global payments network with acceptance around the world. For more information, visit www.discover.com/company.