2022 BuoyFi Medical Debt Survey

August 31, 2022
by Admin
BuoyFi Survey Graphic

It’s easy to assume that people with overdue medical debt wind up in that situation because they don’t have health insurance, but a new national survey finds that’s not the case. In fact, the survey of Americans with burdensome medical debt found that nearly all (94%) have health insurance. The survey was commissioned by BuoyFi, which provides tools to help people calculate an affordable settlement or payment plan based on their income.

A Will Without a Way

The survey found that three out of four Americans with overdue medical debt (75%) would like to pay it off. Almost half (47%) say they haven’t because they can’t afford to, and 41% say it’s because they have other bills that are more of a priority. For almost four in 10, overdue medical debt has caused them to have trouble paying for everyday necessities like groceries, transportation, childcare and clothing.

Making People Sicker

One of the most alarming findings of the survey is that, ironically, medical debt itself may be making people sicker. The survey found that having overdue medical debt led about a third of respondents to:

  • 32% avoid seeking medical care in an emergency
  • 31% delay preventive medical care
  • 30% skip filling a prescription or take less than the full prescribed dose

Limiting Opportunities

Survey respondents said their medical debt had many other negative effects on their lives, including being denied home and car loans (23%), not being able to invest in their own or a family member’s education (18%), and delaying starting a family (11%).

“As a company dedicated to helping consumers rise above medical debt so they can live freer, more fulfilling lives, BuoyFi commissioned this survey to gain new insights into not only the immense burden of medical debt, but to inform the development of tools and services that can help these patients resolve their medical debt and avoid it in the future,” said Steve Wright, president of BuoyFi.

Wright said one concerning finding was that a full 40% of respondents were not aware that they might be eligible for financial assistance or debt forgiveness, and 30% didn’t realize that it’s often possible to negotiate the balance down to an affordable amount that can be paid back over time.

“This data confirms that patients don’t always understand that they have options when it comes to paying off their medical debt,” said Wright. “Not only is it possible, but it can be more affordable than they think.”

Rising Above

BuoyFi offers free tools to help consumers calculate what they can afford and recommends settlement and payment plans based on income. BuoyFi team members, many of whom have experience working in account receivables and patient financing, are available to review users’ options and provide tips on how best to negotiate with collections representatives.

“BuoyFi’s Mission is to empower all Americans to free themselves from burdensome medical debt while building healthier financial futures,” said Wright. “Access to the right tools can be a powerful first step.”

For additional survey results, contact Todd Morgano at tmorgano@fallsandco.com.


The survey was conducted online by Falls & Co. from April 6 through April 14, 2022, among 517 U.S. residents ages 18 and older. Falls established the sampling quotas, designed the questionnaire, tabulated the survey responses, and managed the overall project. Falls used Dynata (Plano, TX) to administer the survey via the internet, including mobile devices, to Dynata’s captive U.S. panels who met the age, gender, racial/ethnic background, and regional demographic criteria. Respondents were required to have held medical debt at some point in their lives to qualify for the survey. The sample sizes for Age, Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and U.S. Census Region were weighted by U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the U.S. population as of the last decennial census (2010). While different sample sizes have different statistical margins of error, the estimated margin of error for any question with a sample size of 517 is +/- 4.3%.

Highlights from the Survey

How deep is the debt?

Almost 70% of respondents have medical debt balances between $500 and $5,000.

Insurance isn’t enough

Nearly all survey respondents (94%) say they have health insurance coverage.

High deductibles not helping

People with high deductible plans typically have more debt than people with high premium plans.

Try as they might

79% of all respondents have made a payment, including 72% of people making less than $10,000/year.

A bill-paying balancing act

The two main reasons people don’t pay their medical debt are that they simply can’t afford to (47%) or they have other bills that are more of a priority (41%).

Medical bill mistake?

16% of people who haven’t paid their debt say the original bill was incorrect and they’ve had trouble getting it corrected.

13% say the original bill was incorrect and they just don’t know how to fix it.

Sick of their debt

Medical debt may be making people sicker. Carrying medical debt led about a third of respondents to:

  • 32% avoid seeking medical care in an emergency
  • 31% delay preventive medical care
  • 30% skip filling a prescription or take less than the full prescribed dose

A medical debt ripple effect

When asked what they’ve experienced as a result of their overdue debt, respondents said they:

  • 35% delayed a significant purchase (appliance, home repair, technology, etc.)
  • 23% were denied a home or vehicle loan because medical debt lowered credit score
  • 18% were prevented from investing in education for themselves or a family member
  • 15% were not selected for a job and/or their application for an apartment was denied after a credit check

Negotiation knowledge gap

30% of respondents were not aware that it may be possible to negotiate with a care provider or billing/collections representative to reduce their debt.

40% were unaware that depending on their income, they may be eligible for financial assistance programs to reduce or forgive their medical debt.

People most likely to qualify for income-based assistance (earning $75,000 or less) were less likely to know or explore options for assistance or debt reduction than people earning more than $75,000.

Let’s make a deal

75% of respondents would be more likely to pay their medical debt if they could arrange a reasonable payment plan, and 74% would be more likely if they could negotiate what they owe based on their income and ability to pay.