American families —both insured and uninsured — are struggling with rising health care costs, and as the economy declines, the number of uninsured is expected to rise.
Aimee Busquet, an arthritis advocate from Dawsonville, knows the difficulties first hand.
After 10 surgeries for her arthritis, Busquet has seen her medical debt grow to a point where she had to establish payment plans with hospitals and other health care providers to cover the costs.
It seemed almost as though as soon as one was paid off, another procedure was scheduled and the cycle began again, she said.
In addition to the monetary costs associated with chronic illness, Busquet, an educator at Southern Catholic College, says living with six joint replacements and severe rheumatoid arthritis makes it very difficult to maintain employment.
She wants to continue teaching, although she is finding it increasingly difficult and knows she will have to go on disability in the near future.
Recently, Busquet took her fight for healthcare reform to Capitol Hill, where she met with Congressman Nathan Deal, to discuss her personal challenges accessing affordable health care and managing medical debt.
“Arthritis is the nation’s most common cause of disability, though many people are not aware that it is a very serious, painful and life-altering disease,” said Andrea Collins, vice president of Mission Delivery. “The burden of medical debt excessively falls on patients with chronic diseases, and studies show that out-of-pocket costs are rising faster for arthritis than for many other chronic conditions.”
Indeed, unwieldy medical bills contributed to 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine, and to half of all home foreclosures as revealed in a similar 2008 Harvard study.
In 2007, 28 percent of working-age adults with chronic conditions such as arthritis reported that their families had trouble paying medical bills.
Of those, one in four went without needed care, half delayed needed care and 56 percent failed to get prescription medications, because of cost concerns.
These unmet needs put people with arthritis at great risk for complications and permanent disability.
“In our nation, the costs for individual health insurance premiums have risen nearly eight times faster than average incomes. With 45 million uninsured citizens, it is now more important than ever to find ways to make health care affordable and ensure greater access to care for all,” Collins said.