LOS ANGELES – Recognizing the need to assist Los Angeles residents struggling with medical debt, healthcare practitioners today joined financial services providers and community groups to discuss how best to implement the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles and strategies for keeping Angelenos out of debt. Speakers also highlighted options for those plagued by medical debt.
Over two million Californians have medical debt, which makes it difficult for them to access needed healthcare or affordable credit. In more than half of personal bankruptcy cases, medical bills are listed as a major factor.
"Californians are one medical emergency away from financial ruin," said Olivia Calderon, Director of the New America Foundation’s California Asset Building Program. "Our state policymakers are perfectly positioned to build on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that incentive personal saving particularly among low-income people."
A newly released report by the New America Foundation found that medical debt results from inadequate health insurance and unaffordable health care costs. The report, "Tarnish on the Golden State: How Medical Debt Threatens Family Financial Security," lays out policy options that California policymakers can take to implement the Affordable Care Act in order to expand insurance coverage and alleviate credit problems for those with medical debt.
"Many working families live paycheck to paycheck and unexpected medical bills drive them into debt," said Mark Rukavina, author of ‘Tarnish on the Golden State.’ "Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has the ability to bring coverage to millions of Californians and will help them avoid medical debt in the future."
Building on the report, Forescee Hogan-Rowles emphasized the opportunity for community groups to be a part of the solution in helping Angelenos access financial services and healthy food. She highlighted the Community Financial Resource Center’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, supported by the California Endowment, which encourages the development of food retail in underserved communities.
"There’s an important link between health, food, jobs, small businesses, and wealth creation," said Hogan-Rowles. "Without jobs, people don’t eat well, they get sick, and they can’t feed their families. Through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, we are helping small businesses thrive and provide healthy food options, which creates healthy communities."
The gathering was convened by the New America Foundation, the Select Committee on Financial Empowerment, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in Los Angeles.