FRIDAY, Aug. 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Medical collections decrease substantially with age, possibly because of increased health insurance coverage and incomes, according to a study published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

Michael Batty, Ph.D., from the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., and colleagues used credit report data on more than four million Americans to examine the age profile of individuals whose medical bills were sent to a U.S. collections agency in 2016.

The researchers found that medical collections decreased substantially with age, unlike health care use and spending. From age 27 to 64 years, the average size of medical debt decreased nearly 40 percent, with mediating roles likely for increases in health insurance coverage and incomes. The frequency of medical collections was less closely linked to rates of insurance coverage. Most medical collections were modest in size, with more than half less than $600 annually; consequently, these medical collections could still occur under typical insurance plans.

“Debt is most pronounced for consumers younger than age 40 and then decreases with age, closely tracking the rates of insurance coverage,” the authors write. “However, because most medical debts are relatively modest in size, the effect that further insurance expansions could have on medical collections may be limited if they entail substantial cost sharing.”

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