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Medical Debt Rises In California

Aired 2/9/12 on KPBS News.

Insured and uninsured Californians alike saw their medical debt rise between 2007 and 2009.

— A new report shows medical debt in California took a big jump between 2007 and 2009. The number of non-elderly Californians with medical debt grew by 400,000 people during that time.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released the report. It shows 23 percent of Californians who were uninsured racked up medical debt. However, nine percent of people with employment-based insurance also had unpaid medical bills.

The author of the report, UCLA's Shana Alex Lavarreda, said most people had medical debt of under $2,000.

"And I think that really speaks to, you know, the thin margin that people are living on these days," Alex Lavarreda pointed out, "that if they get a bill for $1500 from a doctor's office, they're not able to pay it."

The report estimates 230,000 San Diegans had medical debt in 2009. Nearly one out of four were people on Medi-Cal.

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