Life without health insurance coverage is one acute medical instance away from a life of unfathomable medical debt. Almost one third of all Arizonans (31 percent) reported either currently paying off outstanding medical bills or problems paying bills in 2010, according to an Arizona Health Survey analysis. Not surprisingly, the most significant association with that group was a lack of insurance coverage. Insidiously, those with medical debt start from an illness or injury that limits earning potential and then proceed as the group most associated with a downward spiral of significant stress (from higher credit card debt and more calls from bill collectors), increased bankruptcy rates and diminished access to care.
Mortgage debt may make all the headlines, but it’s got nothing on the triple-whammy of medical debt. Without insurance coverage and access to care, there’s nowhere to go but down in a nation that most values the capacity to move up.
We’re living through a scenario where our citizens go broke trying just to become healthy, a disconcerting fact on a number of levels. We need to broker a better future – and take advantage of opportunities like Medicaid expansion – before our people and state end up irreparably broken.