Mississippians are drowning in medical debt - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Mississippians are drowning in medical debt

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Have you ever gotten sick and then felt sick all over again when you got the bills for your medical care?

If so, you're not alone. In fact, medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcies in Mississippi.

This study by the Urban Institute shows more than 37 percent of Mississippians ages 18-64 report past-due medical debt.

Roy Mitchell at the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program said the possible health care reforms could impact those stats.

"A little known fact, though, is that bankruptcies have actually been reduced nationwide and in Mississippi as a result of the ACA (Affordable Care Act)," described Mitchell.

Mitchell said that's mostly because of the consumer protections like mandated coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Health Help Mississippi is aimed at bridging some of the gaps to help patients better understand how to maximize their coverage. The other issue is education.

"What we've found is that Mississippians truly try their best to navigate their system within their own understanding," noted Kerri Abernathy, Health Help Mississippi Senior Program Manager. "And it is a very complex area and we're here to help navigate them through that as well as help them understand what their coverage options are."

The Mississippi Hospital Association said it creates a perfect storm. Communities need access to medical care but hospitals need the revenue to keep paying staff.

"The challenge is simply if folks aren't able to pay the bills or unwilling to pay their bills, eventually hospitals have to make decisions about what services they can afford to provide," explained Richard Roberson, MHA General Counsel.

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