Empowering Health Care Consumers


Urban Institute

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers


March 1, 2023


In New York State, an estimated 6% of consumers—representing approximately 740,000 adults and their families—had medical debt in collections on their credit records as of February 2022. Yet this burden is distributed unevenly across the State. A new analysis from the Urban Institute, funded by NYHealth, finds wide regional variation in the prevalence of medical debt, ranging from 3% on Long Island to 14% in Central New York.

This examination of medical debt across communities within each region also reveals racial and ethnic disparities that go overlooked when focusing only on statewide patterns. Within regions, the highest rates of medical debt are typically found in communities of color. For example, in Central New York, the rate of medical debt in communities where a majority of residents are people of color is 28%. That is more than twice as high as the rate in communities in the region with the lowest proportions of residents of color (12%) and nearly five times as high as the statewide average (6%).

The highest rates of medical debt are also typically found in communities with lower incomes, both within regions and across the State. In communities in the bottom quartile of median household income statewide, 9% of consumers have medical debt in collections, compared with 3% of consumers who live in communities with the highest incomes.

As New York State policymakers consider strategies to reduce the burden of medical debt, these findings show that they have the potential to reach a broad segment of New York’s population, while reducing regional, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities in health and financial wellbeing.

Read the brief.