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Published: Mar 01, 2017 2 min read

Unpaid medical bills are an issue for a large number of American adults, according to a study from the Urban Institute.

The study found that one in four American adults who are younger than age 65 had past-due medical bills in 2015, an issue that affects about 25% of people between the ages 18 and 50 and 20% of people between 51 and 64. The results from 2015 showed an improvement from 2012, when nearly 30% of adults who weren't elderly said they had unpaid medical bills. Past-due medical debt affects about 10% of people older than 65.

According to the study, which was based on data from the 2012 and 2015 National Financial Capability Study, younger people accrue medical debt because they are less likely to have health insurance — the elderly tend to be able to pay their bills because of good coverage under Medicare.

Wealth also affects the younger generations' ability to pay for medical care. The study noted that younger people "are barely breaking even with the wealth people their parents' age had in the 1980s." Those in older generations have more money on average, compared with people their age 30 years ago.