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UPDATE - Medical Debt in Los Angeles County

To learn more about how medical debt impacted communities in LA County in 2022, read the report.
What is Medical Debt?

Medical debt is money that is owed or past due for health services, and can come from a variety of sources such as:

  • Hospital stays or surgeries
  • Doctor's visits
  • Dental care
  • Medical procedures
  • Prescription medications
  • Other related healthcare costs

Medical debt is an important issue in Los Angeles County, affecting one in ten adults, with an alarming total of over $2.6 billion in medical debt as of 2021. Medical debt disproportionately affects families with children, lower-income, Latino, Black, American Indian, and Pacific Islander residents, and people with chronic health conditions. For many individuals and families this burden leads to physical and mental health problems, and financial instability. They may have difficulty paying for basics like food and housing and skip or delay needed medical care. Even with insurance, costs can add up quickly and lead to significant debt.

Medical Debt in Los Angeles County: 2022 Update

To learn more about how medical debt impacted communities in LA County in 2022, read the report.

Medical Debt in Los Angeles County: 2021 Baseline Report and Action Plan

To learn more about how medical debt impacts communities across LA County in 2021 and recommendations to reduce the problem, read the report.

Get Help

If you have medical bills you cannot pay help is available.
Legal Advice & Assistance

Legal Aid organizations provide free legal services related to medical debt to vulnerable and low-income individuals and families. They represent clients, as well as help with insurance denials, appeals, and negotiating medical bills. Services are delivered in multiple languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Bangla, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Dari, English, Farsi, Filipino, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSA) provides free legal services and healthcare referrals. NLSA’s Health Consumer Center represents clients with medical debt and helps with questions about healthcare programs such as Medi-Cal, Medicare, Covered California, County health programs, and in-home supportive services.
Hotline: (800) 896-3202

Bet Tzedek provides free legal services related to medical debt for low-income individuals and families.

Hotline: (323) 939-0506

Health Consumer Alliance is a partnership of nonprofit legal services organizations across California that offer free assistance to consumers in understanding and navigating health insurance and medical debt.
Hotline: (888) 804-3536

Consumer Counseling

The LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) serves consumers, businesses, and communities through education, advocacy, and complaint resolution. DCBA counselors offer information and answer questions to help you resolve a problem. They can answer questions about purchases, credit, landlord/tenant disputes, car sales, debt, and other consumer issues. Services are provided in multiple languages.

Counselors also provide direct referrals for matters related to medical debt, including incorrect billing, lawsuits filed by a debt collector, or wage garnishment, liens, and levies resulting from a lost court case. Free one-on-one service with a DCBA counselor is available. Make a telephone appointment or an in-person appointment.
Helpline: (800) 593-8222

Financial Counseling

Free financial resources to help with managing debt, boosting income, and restoring financial stability can be found at

Navigating Medical Bills & Medical Debt Collections
infographic about navigating medical bills
					Navigating medical bills in the U.S.
				$88 billion of outstanding medical bills are currently in collections – affecting one in five Americans. Medical bills are rife with errors, and billing systems are complex. Confirming an unpaid bill often depends on whether you contact the provider, the billing department, or the insurance company. Follow these tips to navigate the complex medical billing and collections system.
				How did you hear about the debt?
				If you heard about the debt from your credit report or a credit check, learn how to review your reports and dispute errors at
				If you heard about the debt from a debt collector, learn your rights at
				If you heard about the debt from a health care provider, do you recognize the bill and service?
				If you do not recognize the bill and service, contact your health care provider to request an itemized list of services and providers from your care.
				If the provider or service is not listed, this debt may not be yours or it may be an old debt. Contact your provider to get more information.
				If you recognize the bill and service but it is an unexpected bill, you may have protections under the No Surprises Act:
				If you recognize the bill and service and the provider or service is listed, do you believe this service should have been covered by your insurance?
				If you believe the service should have been covered by your insurance, contact your insurer for an explanation of benefits and an itemized list of payments.
				If you do not believe this service should have been covered by your insurance, did you already pay the bill?
				If you did pay the bill, call your provider with documentation that the bill has been paid.
				If you do not believe the service should have been covered by your insurance, and you can pay your medical bill, then you should pay it. 
				If you do not believe the service should have been covered by your insurance, but you are unable to pay the bill yourself, find out if payment plans, charity care, or other assistance programs are available through your provider, state, or advocacy groups.
				If you cannot pay your bill, do you qualify for charity care?
				If you do not qualify for charity care, but believe you should qualify, see if you can appeal the decision, enter into a payment plan, or find other payment assistance programs in your local community.
				If you do qualify for charity care, follow the steps to enroll. Keep copies of all of your bills, correspondence, and paperwork. Follow up on your charity care application. If you are still contacted by a debt collector, tell them you’ve applied for charity care. You may also tell them to stop contacting you while your application is pending. If you are experiencing a problem with debt collectors or credit reporting, submit a complaint at
				CFPB: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
				To learn more, visit

For more information about how to deal with medical bills and collections visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC)
To dispute a dispute a bill, make a complaint or express a concern about medical debt or health insurance, contact the DMHC. You can get information on your rights and protections as a consumer related to medical debt.
Hotline: (888) 466-2219

Get Involved

Share Your Story

Help bring the problem to light by sharing your experience with medical debt. If you or someone you know has dealt with medical debt, share your experiences through our public comment form. By adding your voice, you are contributing to a better understanding of how medical debt impacts our community and helping to support meaningful solutions.

Stay Informed

To keep up with new developments related to medical debt, including programs and policies, resources, and news of community led activities and public and private efforts to address the problem, sign up to receive our Medical Debt in LA County newsletter, here.

Join the Effort Reduce Medical Debt in LA County

Join consumers and community organizations to develop effective approaches to reducing medical debt burden in our community. Sign up here.

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  • Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

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