The healthcare safety net is partially made of plastic, according to a report by Demos and the Access Project. The report found that 29% of low- and middle-income households with credit card debt said medical expenses had contributed to the debt, and of that group, 69% had had a major medical expense in the previous three years. Low-income households and those with medical debt had on average 46% more credit card debt ($11,623 vs. $7,964) than households without medical debt. The medically indebted also were more likely to be called by bill collectors: 62% vs. 38%. The groups advocate limiting the entry of medical providers into financial services. Provider-sponsored credit cards and revolving lines of credit are often offered under the guise of financial assistance, they said in the report. The groups also recommend increased oversight of medical credit cards and lines of credit attached to health savings accounts. The report was based on phone interviews with 1,150 low- and middle-income households in 2005. Demos, based in New York, is a nonpartisan public policy research and advocacy organization. The Access Project, based in Boston, is a resource center for local communities working to improve healthcare access. Read the report. -- by Cinda Becker
Healthcare driving up household debt
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