Gender Differences in Financial Hardships of Medical Debt


Women are more likely than men to forgo, delay, and ration medical care because of medical debt. Using 2003–04 Community Tracking Study Household Survey data, this study examined gender differences in five financial hardships associated with medical debt. Regression analyses accounting for predisposing, enabling, and need factors of health services use indicated women were less likely to report being contacted by a collection agency (b=−0.15, p<.05), using savings (b=−0.23, p<.005), or having any financial hardships associated with medical debt (b=−0.24, p<.05). There were no significant gender differences in putting off major purchases, borrowing money, and problems paying for necessities. Similarly, there were positive and negative relationships between medical debt financial hardships and income, insurance, and health status. Findings suggest that making health care affordable and equitable is critically important for both men and women. Research is needed to understand the differential impact of medical debt, especially among disadvantaged populations.