By Signe-Mary McKernan, Genevieve M. Kenney, and Robert Abare at the Urban Institute 

About 25 percent of millennials and gen Xers (ages 18 to 50) have past due medical debt, while 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 64) and 10 percent of people over age 65 have past-due medical debt. That millennials and generation X are more likely to have past-due medical debt is consistent with what we know about wealth. Americans often assume that every generation will fare better than the previous generation, but these assumptions run contrary to reality for today’s young adults.

Having past-due medical debt creates difficulties for today and the future. Past-due medical debt can lower your credit score, affecting future access to credit (such as getting a mortgage or borrowing for a small business) and the price of credit. Credit report information can be used to determine eligibility for jobs, access to rental housing, and insurance premiums.