Health insurance not so assuring
According to a recent University of Arizona study published online by the American Journal of Public Health, being insured does not alleviate the odds of accruing medical debt when taking age, income and health status into account.
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It’s a weird catch-22: Arizona families can’t afford to pay their medical bills and health insurance isn’t protecting them from this predicament. The fallout is that families are not getting needed medical attention, spinning the problem into a more dire scenario.
Patricia M. Herman directed the study; she’s a research scientist at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. The bottom line: Medical debt is a separate and better predictor of whether people will delay or forego needed medical care than their insurance status. And it’s a problem for both the insured and uninsured.
Factors assessed included insurance coverage, health status, behaviors and social and environmental issues. The study analyzed data from more than 2,300 cases included in the Arizona Health Survey, a 2008 comprehensive survey of 4,200 Arizona households conducted prior to the peak of the nation’s recent financial recession and high unemployment.
To eliminate the Medicare factor, the study focused on adults age 18 to 64.
What Herman’s analysis determined is that continual health insurance coverage is a key aspect of both debt problems and getting medical care. Her assessment? That health insurance should be portable, universally available or both, so that families do not experience coverage gaps. She goes on to say that there is a serious need to reduce large out-of-pocket costs to insured patients to reduce medical debt.
Michele Walsh of the University of Arizona Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Jill Rissi of the Portland State University Hatfield School of Government co-authored the study, funded by St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, a Phoenix-based public foundation focused on Arizona health policy and strength-based community development.
To read the full report, go to http://ajph.aphapublications.org.