Importance: The bidirectional association between health and financial stability is increasingly recognized.
Objective: To describe the association between chronic disease burden and patients' adverse financial outcomes.
Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional study analyzed insurance claims data from January 2019 to January 2021 linked to commercial credit data in January 2021 for adults 21 years and older enrolled in a commercial preferred provider organization in Michigan.
Exposures: Thirteen common chronic conditions (cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, dementia, depression and anxiety, diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, serious mental illness, stroke, and substance use disorders).
Main outcomes and measures: Adjusted probability of having medical debt in collections, nonmedical debt in collections, any delinquent debt, a low credit score, or recent bankruptcy, adjusted for age group and sex. Secondary outcomes included the amount of medical, nonmedical, and total debt among individuals with nonzero debt.
Results: The study population included 2 854 481 adults (38.4% male, 43.3% female, 12.9% unknown sex, and 5.4% missing sex), 61.4% with no chronic conditions, 17.7% with 1 chronic condition, 14.8% with 2 to 3 chronic conditions, 5.4% with 4 to 6 chronic conditions, and 0.7% with 7 to 13 chronic conditions. Among the cohort, 9.6% had medical debt in collections, 8.3% had nonmedical debt in collections, 16.3% had delinquent debt, 19.3% had a low credit score, and 0.6% had recent bankruptcy. Among individuals with 0 vs 7 to 13 chronic conditions, the predicted probabilities of having any medical debt in collections (7.6% vs 32%), any nonmedical debt in collections (7.2% vs 24%), any delinquent debt (14% vs 43%), a low credit score (17% vs 47%) or recent bankruptcy (0.4% vs 1.7%) were all considerably higher for individuals with more chronic conditions and increased with each added chronic condition. Among individuals with medical debt in collections, the estimated amount increased with the number of chronic conditions ($784 for individuals with 0 conditions vs $1252 for individuals with 7-13 conditions) (all P < .001). In secondary analyses, results showed significant variation in the likelihood and amount of medical debt in collections across specific chronic conditions.
Conclusions and relevance: This cross-sectional study of commercially insured adults linked to patient credit report outcomes shows an association between increasing burden of chronic disease and adverse financial outcomes.