Sometimes lost in the debate about health care, public option or not, is the sad fact that even people with decent insurance end up going into debt to pay for procedures that aren't covered. A recent UCLA Center for Health Policy Research study found that 2.2 million Californians — more than half the population of the city of Los Angeles — are in debt as a result of medical bills not covered by their insurance.

One in seven senior citizens in the Golden State have medical-bill red ink despite being covered by health plans. The study finds that those Golden State citizens — older and younger alike — who carry such debt loads are twice as likely to forgo medical care and checkups as those who don't have medical payments past due.

“Too many people have health insurance plans that leave them financially vulnerable and force them to delay the care they need,” states E. Richard Brown, the center's director.

Robert K. Ross, head of The California Endowment, which helped fund the study,

added: “Americans should be outraged that the very system that they depend on

for health care no longer offers that protection.”

The authors cite high-deductible plans as a big part of the problem. The result can be that nearly half of insured Californians who take on medical debt end up with more financial headaches, including bankruptcies and further dependence on credit cards for everyday expenses. Now that's healthy.

LA Weekly