Medical debt draining Kansans' resources, threatening health care access

A new report documents that many lower-income Kansans face unaffordable medical bills, resulting in overwhelming debt that severely impairs their financial stability.

The report, "Playing by the rules but losing: How medical debt threatens Kansans' healthcare access and financial security," was written by The Access Project, a national research and health advocacy organization, which will release the research results on February 2nd. A phone-in press conference will be held that day at 10:00 a.m. CST.

The Access Project has published widely on the subject of medical debt. Its Kansas research was funded through grants from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund as part of its mission to help improve the health of Kansans, as well as the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

According to Kim Moore, Health Fund president, the report reveals that medical debt is becoming commonplace in Kansas. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents in the study had medical debt, which affected people in every racial and ethnic group, and the insured as well as the uninsured.

The research found that people drew on whatever resources they had available to try to pay down their debt. "This report shows that Kansans are playing by the rules and trying to pay off their bills" Moore said, "but in spite of their struggle, they come up short. Something's wrong when so many people use up their hard-earned savings, borrow from friends, take out loans, and jeopardize their credit in order to pay off medical bills." The findings contradict the notion that many patients have the resources but simply refuse to pay for care.

The Access Project and its research partners at the Schneider Institute for Health Policy at Brandeis University worked with four community health centers in Kansas on the study. The researchers surveyed clients at the health centers located in Wichita, Garden City and Emporia -- gathering responses from over 1,000 participants. The survey

Contact: Laura Gardner
Brandeis University

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