‘It can completely destroy a family’: Medical debt weighs on 1 in 5 North Carolinians

About 20% of North Carolina residents have medical debt that is in collections, making it the state with the fourth-highest level of unpaid medical debt.

Alicia Pender lived a fairly normal life before contracting COVID-19 in 2020. She was a travel nurse working in central North Carolina and was active, taking vacations and handling her own home repairs.

Nearly two years later, she’s facing a long list of health issues and more than $30,000 in medical debt.

Alicia Pender has incurred close to $30,000 of medical debt due to long COVID and other illnesses and injuries. 

Walt Unks, Winston-Salem Journal

COVID-19 left Pender with heart problems including an irregular heartbeat, which required several procedures. She has “brain fog” that affects her balance. She’s suffering from depression and anxiety. Still, what causes her the most stress is her mountain of medical bills, despite having health insurance. Debt collectors hound her with phone calls.

The bills piled up due to a high deductible and out-of-pocket costs with private insurance, she said. About half of the debt is now in collections.


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