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Medical debt keeps rising, new report shows
Date:2/6/2012

Hard hit by one of the worst recessions in nearly a century, hundreds of thousands of Californians lost insurance coverage across the state as employers shed jobs and the health plans that came with those jobs, according to a new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Among the most alarming trends resulting from the so-called Great Recession: a significant jump in California's already high rate of residents with medical debt.

In 2009, 2.6 million non-elderly Californians had some kind of medical debt an increase of 400,000 since 2007, the new "State of Health Insurance in California" report shows.

The report, published every two years with grant funding from The California Endowment and The California Wellness Foundation, uses the latest data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to paint a comprehensive picture of health insurance trends, access and coverage status for California's more than 37 million residents.

The report found that medical debt was highest among those uninsured all of the year (of whom 18.4 percent had debt) and among those uninsured for part of the year (23.2 percent). But even 9.1 percent of those with employment-based coverage reported some kind of medical debt.

"No Californian should have to take on debt to pay medical bills or go without access to health care just because they lost their job," said Shana Alex Lavarreda, lead author of the report and director of health insurance studies a the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "As this recession has so clearly shown us, linking health care to a volatile job market puts us all at risk."

Yet the report also discusses the potential positive implications of health care reform on California's uninsured population.

"This data clearly indicates the need for successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act," said Dr. Robert K. Ross, CEO and president of The California Endowment. "
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Contact: Gwen Driscoll
gdriscoll@ucla.edu
310-794-0930
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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