Over two million Californians have medical debt. These residents find it difficult to access needed health care or affordable credit. Even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 80% of farm workers, who are undocumented, will continue to struggle with being uninsured and accessing healthcare. This can lead to medical debt that makes it harder for them to pay other bills and leads to financial and mental stress. For residents with medical debt, both their physical and financial health are at risk.
In order for California communities to be healthy, we must address both health and wealth issues. There are clear connections between poverty, lack of health insurance, and poor health. In regions of California with a poverty rate greater than twenty percent, almost all had life expectancies more than two years lower than the state average.
At this September 2011 event, the New America Foundation -- in partnership with the United Way of Fresno County, the Select Committee on Financial Empowerment, and the California State University at Fresno's Department of Economics -- discussed the latest research, current legislation and concrete strategies for reducing the burden of medical debt, creating savings opportunities, and improving health outcomes in the Central Valley.