Medical Debt Sinking Insured, Too

2.2M Californians have medical debts

By Rory Devine
|  Thursday, Sep 3, 2009  |  Updated 8:17 PM PDT
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Medical Debt Sinking Insured, Too

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A visit to the emergency room can cost thousands of dollars.

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Medical Debt Sinking Insured, Too

A new study shows that even with coverage, many Californians are still struggling -- and failing -- to pay medical bills.
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A new study shows that even with coverage, many Californians are still struggling -- and failing -- to pay medical bills.

The study out of UCLA dispels the myth that people with insurance are protected from financial ruin or huge debt. In fact, it shows that people with insurance are just as likely to have medical debt as people without it.

When Curtis Thomas' mother died, her family owed $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

"She did have insurance and she was diagnosed with cancer," Thomas said.

The study shows that 2.2 million adult Californians had medical debt in 2007, and of them, two-thirds were actually insured at the time the costs were incurred. One of the researchers, UCSD's Richard Kronick, said the consequences of carrying medical debt can be very real.

"We also found people with medical debt are much more likely to delay getting care they need, getting prescription drugs, than people without medical debt," Kronick said.

High deductibles, co-pays, services not covered and no limits on out-of-pocket expenses are some of the reasons people are in debt, Kronick said.

"We have a high-deductible plan of $4,000," said April Hall. "After we pay $4,000, we pay 10 percent of that high deductible -- because of that high deductible plan, I don't go to the doctor. I won't go."

One of 10 San Diegans has some medical debt, KPBS reported.

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