Carol Voytko, a 48-year old former health care worker, is “physically and mentally exhausted.” Not only has her breast cancer left her unable to work, but she still does not qualify for financial assistance – leaving her over $500,000 in debt from surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, even with private insurance. The financial battle she faces, in addition to fighting cancer, takes a large psychological toll.
Medical debt not only impacts patients’ finances and futures, but also worsens their mental health and well-being. According to an Associated Press-AOL survey, debt-related stress can create a variety of additional long-lasting health burdens. 29 percent of poll respondents suffered severe anxiety from debt, compared with 4 percent in the general population. 23 percent reported severe depression.
Our health system shouldn’t make us sicker. In the short-term, reforms like expanding access to financial assistance, regulating facility fees and ending aggressive debt collection practices can provide much-needed financial relief for New Yorkers. Next, New York must pass the New York Health Act to create a fairer, more equitable system to protect patients’ health and well-being.