Medical Debt Crisis: Impact on Native and Indigenous Families

February 9, 2023

Watch Recording

Presented by National Consumer Law Center and Community Catalyst 

Thursday, February 9, 2023, 2:00 – 3:30 ET

The COVID-19 pandemic helped to reveal the large health inequalities in the United States, specifically in communities of color. According to data from Johns Hopkins, Native and Indigenous communities were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic due to underfunded and under-resourced health systems, limited access to health services, poor infrastructure, and underlying health disparities that place them at higher risk. While these stark racial inequities and gaps in health outcomes were brought to light during a global health crisis , the root causes have been at work for years. This webinar will look at medical debt in Native and Indigenous communities, the social and political influences causing an increased risk of medical debt, and what groups on the ground are doing to address this issue. 
Medical debt remains a daunting crisis and race contributes to whether households have medical debt, with Native and Indigenous communities being no exception. Despite misconceptions, healthcare needs in Native and Indigenous communities are not covered in full by the federal government. In fact, between 2016 and 2019, the Indian Health Service IHS has declined to pay medical bills for more than 500,000 patients, resulting in more than $2 billion in medical debt. Recent research shows that Native and Indigenous families are more likely to have medical debt and skip filling prescriptions due to costs than non-Hispanic Whites. These communities face unique challenges, tied to persistent systemic racism and historical trauma, that limit their access to affordable healthcare.
Please join NCLC and Community Catalyst on Thursday, February 9, 2023 at 2:00 pm ET.
During this webinar, we will discuss these structural and systemic issues that lead to an increased risk and burden of medical debt for Native and Indigenous communities and what can be done to address them.  

  • Moderators: 
  • Speakers:
    • Dr. Sean Hubbard, Lecturer, The University of North Texas at Dallas. Dr. Hubbard’s research focuses on the healthcare-related financial decisions made by economically vulnerable households. His recent work examines medical debt and cost avoidance among American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
    • Cecelia Fred, Navajo Nation. Cecilia is a local health care advocate and member of the Navajo Nation who lives in Red Rock, New Mexico. Since 2016, Cecelia has worked with Strong Families New Mexico, a program of Forward Together, as a healthcare leader advocating for healthcare access policies and systems change for all New Mexicans. As part of this health advocacy work she provides key insights on Native American and disability healthcare.