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California has one of the nation's highest proportion of residents without medical insurance, about 20 percent, but many of those with insurance have found themselves with debts from medical care, according to a new study by UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research.

More than 2.2 million adults Californians report medical debt, with two-thirds of them incurring debt while insured, according to "The State of Health Insurance in California." Overall, 13 percent of Californians have some kind of medical debt and about a third of those have more than $2,000 in medical debt.

Not surprisingly, residents of relatively low-income rural areas have the greatest levels of medical debt, as high as 39 percent in Humboldt County, while those in affluent urban areas have few such problems, just 7.1 percent in San Mateo County.

"That even insured people are forced to take on medical debt to pay for their health care is another glaring inadequacy in our current system of health insurance," said E. Richard Brown, director of the UCLA center. "Current policies either do not offer enough coverage or offer full-coverage at a cost that is too expensive for many people to bear. The result is that too many people have health insurance plans that leave them financially vulnerable and force them to delay the care they need."

The full report on Californians' health insurance, or lack thereof, is available here.


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