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Medical Debt Sending Many Over Financial Brink
Date:10/28/2008

Experts say soaring health costs and medical crises fuel many foreclosures, bankruptcies

TUESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) --Since 1999, Keith and Deborah Krinsky of Magalia, Calif., have seen their health insurance deductible soar from $1,000 to $10,000.

And their health-care costs have put them in a financial hole.

A combination of Keith's chronic asthma and potential heart problems, Deborah's connective tissue disorder and fallen arches, and their kids' various scrapes and stumbles led them to amass a pile of credit card debt and forced them to refinance the mortgage on their house -- which they now are having trouble paying.

Keith, once a plant manager for a trucking company in Chico, took a $30,000 pay cut to get a job with better health benefits. Deborah, who doesn't work because of her disability, said they are still fighting desperately to stave off foreclosure.

"Right now, we are in the process of losing our home. We will probably go to my mother-in-law," Deborah said Monday.

The Krinskys are not alone in their scramble to make ends meet because of medical issues.

The connection between medical debt and the current credit crisis isn't a direct line, but it's strong enough to prompt Mike Leavitt, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to declare at a recent news conference, "If we had any idea how many mortgages were foreclosed because people were crowded out by medical issues . . . Health-care costs are at the heart of many of the things happening."

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in April, way ahead of the current economic meltdown, found that 28 percent of Americans reported that they or their families had had a serious problem paying health insurance or medical bills because of changes in the economy.

And data from the Commonwealth Fund puts 41 percent of working-age adults -- 72 million people -- as having medical debt or
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