A localized look at health costs for St. Louis residents has researchers saying residents across the state are facing financial crisis from medical debt. The Center for Health Law Studies at Saint Louis University worked in partnership with the Missouri Citizen Education Fund, St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice, and the Access Project and surveyed 400 St. Louis residents who are receiving income tax assistance about personal medical debt. The report says more than half of those surveyed have medical debt from unpaid bills and more than half of those with medical debt have health insurance… health insurance SLU Professor Cindy Watson, the lead author of the report, says didn’t fully cover medical expenses. The report also said nearly a third of those with medical debt are experiencing problems with housing such as paying their mortgages and rent and obtaining financing to purchase a home. Watson says the survey included 7 cases from residents dispersed throughout the state.  She says the research data indicates medical debt affects residents throughout the state.

Watson says she hopes the research will encourage state lawmakers to examine problems with un-insurance and under-insurance. She suggests that lawmakers should correlate out-of-pocket costs with family income and assets and ensure working families have access to adequate pulic insurance when illness or injury cause job loss and loss of employer-sponsored health care. She says researchers also recommend lawmakers to reject proposals that would shift more of the costs of health care to consumers.

AUDIO: Laura McNamara reports (:60 MP3)