Millions of Americans are living with debt — a debt that can accumulate and linger for decades. When it comes to medical debt specifically, Mississippi leads the rest of the country. Recent news highlights a growing trend in the state’s medical debt, revealing that financial struggles affect some groups more than others. What is the cause of this imbalance, and what can be done to solve the issue that has hindered the wellbeing of so many?
Just last week, The Clarion-Ledger focused on debt in Mississippi, presenting an angle from which the statewide problem can be assessed. According to a report from the Hope Policy Institute, the economic security of black males is incredibly fragile, which the Clarion-Ledger claims could have a connection to poor health across the state. And although the cause of this issue is complex, high rates of unemployment and low wages could partially be to blame. Those struggling financially often sacrifice health and general wellbeing simply so they can pay for basic necessities. Furthermore, the Clarion-Ledger points out that the stress of poverty can ultimately take a psychological toll on individuals and families. The state department of health also acknowledges the link between racial and socio-economic discrimination and obstacles to healthcare, as poverty-stricken areas are the most affected.
Earlier this year, an article from PBS News Hour was quick to inform readers that 40 percent of Mississippi adults under age 65 are living with medical debt. Yet other studies show that low-income communities are not the only groups affected by this issue; PBS reports that debt is increasingly spreading to the middle class. As a result, hospitals struggle to manage their budgets. Another reason debt is so high could be that the state also has the highest rates of uninsured and underinsured adults, who often turn to bankruptcy when they cannot afford skyrocketing bills. While this issue is clearly a multifaceted one, experts have suggested alternative insurance plans and employment expansion as possible solutions.