New Booklets Offer Prescription to Preventing a Health Care Crisis

NEFE Grant Used to Explore How Medical Expenses Can Affect Finances

Date: October 11, 2005

Contact: Paul Golden 303-224-3514, [email protected]

ENGLEWOOD, COLORADO—Millions of Americans today are uninsured or underinsured. When consumers lack adequate health insurance coverage they put themselves at a substantial risk, should a catastrophic or chronic illness strike.

The best defense to protecting one’s finances when faced with a medical crisis comes from understanding all of the options in the health care system. To reveal these options to the public, a new series of booklets—made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®)—not only examines how medical expenses can contribute to bankruptcy, but informs consumers about the resources that may be available to prevent or minimize financial devastation.

A recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that many adults have encountered a rise in health care costs, and subsequent medical bills are posing a significant challenge for many. One in five adults said they currently had an overdue medical bill, and almost as many (19 percent) reported experiencing serious financial consequences in the past five years due to medical bills.1

“Many people take health insurance for granted, especially when they are healthy,” said Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “It’s critically important for people to consider the havoc that a medical dilemma can wreak on their finances. Planning in advance for a crisis and maintaining proper health insurance coverage can be beneficial not only to your personal health, but to your financial health, as well.”

The new series, titled “Managing Medical Bills: Strategies for Navigating the Health Care System,” was authored by researchers at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. The three consumer guides, which are available free on the Smart About Money Web site ( and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Web site (, offer important information for people seeking to get and keep health insurance and those who are trying to cope without it. The booklets assist people in understanding the insurance coverage they have, explore avenues for obtaining private or public coverage when the need arises, and identify options that may help with medical bills when both private and public coverage options fail.

“Navigating insurance transitions and problems can be confusing, even treacherous, especially for people with serious health care needs,” observed project director Karen Pollitz of Georgetown University. “Gaps occur when coverage is not available, adequate, affordable, or when it’s just too hard to find and use. The medical and financial consequences can be devastating.”

The first booklet in the series, titled Understanding Private Health Insurance, offers tips for evaluating the adequacy of private insurance options, with some cautionary words about products that may not provide satisfactory protection. This booklet also reviews steps that one can take to get the most out of insurance protection and summarizes laws that protect consumers with health problems when they transition from one plan to another.

Medicare and Medicaid: A Health Care Safety Net for People with Serious Disabilities and Chronic Conditions, the second publication in the series, outlines coverage assistance offered by government programs, including eligibility requirements, covered benefits, and federal and state agencies to contact for more information.

The third book in the series is Options for Avoiding and Managing Medical Debt, which discusses possible sources of free and reduced-cost care and their limits.

The booklet also provides an overview of recent changes in the bankruptcy system that may restrict this option for people with mounting medical debts.

The “Managing Medical Bills” series, along with many other valuable resources regarding health insurance information, can be obtained online on the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Web site at, and on the NEFE consumer Web site (click on Get the Facts of Life and select the Medical Issues section). The booklets also are available in the NEFE Financial Literacy Resource CenterSM of the Smart About Money Web site.

The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute is a multi-disciplinary group of faculty and staff dedicated to conducting research on key issues in health policy and health services research. For more information, visit


1Kaiser Family Foundation Public Opinion Spotlight “The Public on Health Care Costs,” August, 2005.


  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]