Podcast: The Impact of Medical Debt Forgiveness

As you surely know, Congress is actively discussing massive changes to the American health care system – changes that, if nothing else, are expected to vastly increase Americans’ level of medical debt: In other words, real health costs the people take on and simply can’t afford.

  • Even today: Some 43 million American adults (one in five) have delinquent medical debt on their credit reports.
  • For 15 million, medical debt is the only debt shown in their credit reports.
  • Medical debt contributes to more than 60 percent of the bankruptcies in America.

In the face of this massive and growing problem, four university researchers have launched a first-of-its-kind economic impact study of medical debt forgiveness – in what tangible ways does forgiving medical debt affect people’s lives?

The researchers come from the economics and public policy departments of UCLA, University of Chicago, MIT, and UC/Berkeley, and I spoke with two of them:

Wes Yin is an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy and the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, and is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He previously served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Economic Policy at the Department of Treasury, and as a Senior Economist in the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Ray Kluender is another of the four researchers. He is Doctoral Student in Economics, MIT.

Yin and Kluender joined me recently from opposite coasts to discuss medical debt, their study, and the difference they hope to make in people’s lives.