Health Care Reform A Priority for People with Arthritis: Families Face Hardship with Increasing Medical Debt

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The Arthritis Foundation wants health care reform this year that will improve the lives of people with arthritis and other chronic diseases. We strongly believe that legislative action is necessary to guarantee quality, affordable, essential health care for all Americans.

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.

The Arthritis Foundation supports health care reform, which provides universal and affordable health care for the 46 million Americans living with arthritis.
American families, both insured and uninsured, are struggling with rising health care costs -- and the number of uninsured is rising. Due to the nature of chronic disease, people with arthritis struggle to pay for physician visits and for the increasing costs of multiple medications and other care that is necessary to properly manage their disease.

"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 Amy Melnick, chief public policy officer for the Arthritis Foundation. "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."

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. Prescription costs are hitting harder than ever due to reduced coverage, pre-existing conditions and higher co-pays. These unmet needs put people with arthritis at greater risk for complications and permanent disability.

The Arthritis Foundation applauds the current proposals in Congress for the many provisions that would benefit all Americans, and particularly those affected by a chronic disease or disability, like arthritis. The provisions included for affordability; preventive services; the prohibitions of discrimination based on health status; the elimination of the annual or lifetime limits on coverage; requiring coverage of dependents up to 26 years of age; and the strategy to develop national quality and efficiency standards mirror the principles of the Arthritis Foundation and will greatly improve the American health care system. We support these goals and principles as outlined in the current proposed legislation.

"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," said Melnick.

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.

The Arthritis Foundation wants health care reform this year that will improve the lives of people with arthritis and other chronic diseases. We strongly believe that legislative action is necessary to guarantee quality, affordable, essential health care for all Americans.

For more information about the Arthritis Foundation's position on health care reform and to learn what you can do to help yourself and others, visit http://www.arthritis.org/access-to-healthcare.

About the Arthritis Foundation
The Arthritis Foundation is the leading health organization addressing the needs of some 46 million Americans living with arthritis, the nation's most common cause of disability. Founded in 1948, with headquarters in Atlanta, the Arthritis Foundation has multiple service points located throughout the country and offers programs that can decrease the pain and disability associated with arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation is the largest private, not-for-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world, funding more than $400 million in research grants since 1948. The foundation helps individuals take control of arthritis by providing public health education; pursuing public policy and legislation; and conducting evidence-based programs to improve the quality of life for those living with arthritis. Information is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-283-7800 or http://www.arthritis.org.

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Angela McMillan

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