By JOSH BOAK
AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new government report shows that nearly 20 percent of U.S. consumers -- nearly 43 million people -- have unpaid medical debts.
The findings from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggest that many Americans are being trapped by debt because they are confused by the notices they get from hospitals and insurance companies about the cost of treatment.
As a result, millions of Americans may be surprised to find they are stuck with lower credit scores, making it harder for them to borrow to buy a home or an automobile.
The report by the federal regulator indicates that much of this trouble could be avoided. About half of consumers who only carry medical debt have no other signs of being under financial distress.