Study: Most Californians With Medical Debt Have Health Insurance Plans
Of the 2.2 million Californians who reported having medical debt in 2007, about two-thirds had health insurance, according to a new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
For the study, researchers surveyed 53,000 households and found that nearly 13% of non-elderly Californians had medical debt in 2007 (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31).
More than 800,000 residents reported owing at least $2,000 in medical bills (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/30).
Shana Alex Lavarreda, report co-author and director of health insurance studies for the UCLA center, said many insured people incur medical debt because their insurance plans have limited benefits or high out-of-pocket costs (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31).
Noting that the report is based on 2007 data, Lavarreda said more California households likely have medical debt today as a result of higher unemployment (Abelson, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 8/31).
Delays in Seeking Care
The report also noted that people with medical debt were about twice as likely as those without debt to delay or forgo health care.
Researchers found that more than 32% of people with medical debt reported delays in seeking treatment, compared with slightly more than 16% of those without medical bills.
More than half of Californians with medical debt said they faced bankruptcy or difficulty paying for basic needs because of unresolved bills (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/30).
The report also broke down results by California regions, identifying medical debt among:
- 24.7% of residents in the Northern and Sierra counties;
- 18.4% of residents in the Central Coast region;
- 17.5% of residents in San Joaquin Valley;
- 12.7% of residents in Southern California (excluding Los Angeles County);
- 11% of residents in the San Francisco Bay area;
- 11% of residents in Los Angeles County; and
- 10.9% of residents in the Sacramento region (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31).
Last week, Capitol Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the new UCLA report.The segment includes comments from Lavarreda (Weiss, "KXJZ News," Capitol Public Radio, 8/31). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.