In December 2023, SSRS conducted eight focus groups with Missourians who are experiencing medical debt to support Missouri Foundation of Health in understanding the impact of medical debt on Missourians’ lives. The goal of the focus groups was to hear from diverse voices on how medical debt affects household finances, health and health care, emotional, mental and physical well-being, and other aspects of people’s lives.

Focus group participants conveyed that their medical debt is the result of both anticipated and unexpected health care events. For some, this debt reflects the steady accumulation of health care expenses for chronic health conditions that they have been unable to fully pay off. For others, the debt emerges from unexpected expenses that they realize – only after the care is received – will only be partially covered by their health insurance or not covered at all.