New data on debt shows need for action…

With new data being published about health coverage and medical debt, it’s clear we need state and federal action to prevent Californians from falling into uninsurance and underinsurance.

More than 2.2 million California adults report having medical debt, and two-thirds of those incurred the debt while insured, according to the authors of “The State of Health Insurance in California (SHIC)” a comprehensive new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Here’s a report by Victoria Colliver at the San Francisco Chronicle, and here’s some key findings from UCLA:

In total, nearly one in seven non-elderly adults in California (13 percent) have some kind of medical debt…

In addition, Californians with medical debt were much more likely than those without debt to delay getting the care they needed. Those with debt were twice as likely to report delays in care: 32.3 percent reported delays in getting needed care, compared with 16.1 percent of those without medical debt…

Also, medical debt can lead to loans and bankruptcy: Among those with medical debt, more than half (55.4 percent) reported financial consequences ranging from an inability to pay for basic necessities to credit card debt to a declaration of bankruptcy.

The study shows that Californians are appropriately concerned about the cost of getting needed care–even when they have coverage. We need action on health reform so we are not at such high risk of losing coverage, and to ensure that such coverage is comprehensive. When people pay a premium, they shouldn’t then be saddled with debt for simply getting the care they need.

Here’s two pieces of legislation to address the issues, both state and federal, and specific and comprehensive:

* AB786(Jones) would better label insurance products and ensure that all health insurance plans had a cap on out-of-pocket costs, so no plan left premium-paying patients with unlimited financial risk. The bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week and is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate next week.

* H.R. 3200, the comprehensive health reform package in the U.S. House of Representatives, would not only secure, stabilize, and expand health coverage for nearly all Americans, but it would also cap out-of-pocket costs. It would set minimum benefit standards and abolish “caps” on benefits that leave insured people with significant medical bills. The bill has passed the three committees of jurisdiction and is expected to get a vote on the House floor in September.

Another reason to work for health reform…

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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