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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Study: Consumer Debt Affects Health. HCFA Proposes Policy Help

Study: Consumer Debt Affects Health. HCFA Proposes Policy Help

November 13, 2014

HCFA was proud to participate today in a State House briefing on new research detailing how consumer debt prevents low-income Massachusetts residents from achieving economic independence.

The briefing was sponsored by the Crittenton Women's Union (CWU), which helps thousands of low-income women and families, and advocates for research-backed solutions to reduce the economic, political, and social barriers disadvantaged women face, and build self-sufficiency. The packed room heard about a new CWU report, which found that high consumer debt levels severely impact low income Bay Staters, affecting access to education, job opportunities, and health. The report was covered in today's Boston Globe. State Senators Jamie Eldridge and Michael Barrett spoke, as well as a CWU client who told a harrowing story about medical misfortunes leading to debt and devestating consequences.

Our focus was on the impact on health care. We noted that poor health can be a cause of high levels of debt, and that, conversely, high levels of debt can be a cause of poor access to health care. The report recommended support for HCFA's Barrier-Free Care bill, which will be re-introduced for the next legislative session. The bill would eliminate cost sharing such as co-pays and deductibles for cost-effective preventive care for people with chronic illness. This would reduce the mounting out-of-pocket costs that often cause patients to skip or skimp on needed treatment, leading to worse and more expensive outcomes. We also expressed support for legislation supported by our partner, Health Law advocates, to limit hospital and other medical debt accumulated by uninsured people.

The report's findings is summarized in this infographic: