Press release

Surprise Medical Expenses Are a Significant Source of Financial Stress for Middle Class Consumers

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Surprise medical expenses prove to be a hardship for all Americans no matter their credit score, according to a study released today by Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class (CNMC). The research found that eight in ten non-prime consumers (those with credit scores under 700), and six in ten prime consumers have experienced some level of financial hardship due to medical bills in the last five years.

These new findings revealed that 54% of non-prime and 42% of prime consumers have delayed seeking medical treatment due to fear of high costs. Additionally, lack of insurance was not a contributing factor to medical expense-related bills, as a majority of those surveyed have health insurance.

“After visiting the emergency room, recovery should be the focus; financial recovery should not,” said Jonathan Walker, Executive Director of the CNMC. “Our research finds non-prime consumers are feeling these expenses more acutely, but we are seeing Americans across the board struggle with financial pain – on top of any physical pain – when recovering from an emergency medical expense. Moreover, they may forgo treatment altogether because of the financial burden.”

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Nearly half of non-prime consumers and almost one-third of prime consumers said a financial disruption due to surprise medical expenses could not be absorbed in the month it occurred.
  • When asked why medical expenses are disruptive, factors relating to insurance not covering claims, high deductibles, and high out-of-pocket costs are most commonly cited.
  • More than half of Americans surveyed reported an emergency room visit for someone in their household in the past five years, noting inpatient hospital treatment as the most financially disruptive, followed by emergency room visits.
  • 72% of non-prime and 65% of prime consumers felt that surprise medical expenses in some way disrupted their household’s finances.

These findings follow a recent CNMC study, ‘Understanding the Drivers of Non-Prime Credit,’ that reported 80% of non-prime Americans list medical expenses as one of the top three reasons for a drop in credit score. “These examples demonstrate how surprise medical expenses can often be financially crippling to Americans nationwide,” said Walker.

About The Research

CNMC’s research compared the responses of 1,544 Americans with prime and non-prime credit scores. The research was conducted via an online panel from April 22 to May 13, 2019.

About The Center For The New Middle Class

Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class conducts research, engages in dialogue, and builds cooperation to generate understanding of the behaviors, attitudes, and challenges of America’s growing “New Middle Class.” For more information, please visit:

About Elevate

Elevate (NYSE: ELVT), together with its bank partners, has originated $7.4 billion in non-prime credit to more than 2.3 million non-prime consumers to date and has saved its customers more than $5.6 billion versus the cost of payday loans. Its responsible, tech-enabled online credit solutions provide immediate relief to customers today and help them build a brighter financial future. The company is committed to rewarding borrowers’ good financial behavior with features like interest rates that can go down over time, free financial training and free credit monitoring. Elevate’s suite of groundbreaking credit products includes RISE, Elastic, Sunny and Today Card. For more information, please visit