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Study finds Upstate, rural New Yorkers of color bear brunt of medical debt

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  • Staff Report 

A study by the Urban Institute, funded by the New York Health Foundation, has found that nearly half of New Yorkers with medical debt owe $500 or more, with the highest debt recorded in four upstate regions: Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson Valley, and North Country.


The data further illustrates that medical debt in collections is more prevalent in poor, rural upstate communities. For instance, in Chemung County in the Southern Tier, 27% of medical debt is in collections, a trend also found in other counties.

These areas, described by New York Health Foundation’s CEO David Sandman as facing “a double whammy,” confront the highest medical debt while grappling with significant health needs and minimal resources, such as higher disability rates, more diabetes cases, lower education rates, and underemployment.

In response to the nationwide issue of medical debt, Congress passed the “No Surprises Act” this spring, preventing surprise medical bills and requiring credit reporting companies to remove certain medical debts.



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