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December 2013
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African-Americans Hardest Hit By Medical Bills

When we think of Americans struggling with medical bills, we often think of the big-ticket medical emergencies like cancer, but a new study points at another issue which plagues African-Americans, chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes:

A poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that 24 percent of African American families said they had problems paying for needed prescription drugs. The poll is part of NPR’s ongoing series, the View from Black America.

Mike Jackson is one of those people. Jackson, 52, lives in Oklahoma City and works for a major insurance company. He has high blood pressure and hypertension, and has been diabetic for 15 years.

Treating these chronic health problems isn’t cheap. Jackson’s medical bills add up to nearly $500 a month. Jackson says: “Diabetes alone — just the two medications alone for diabetes would have run $325 a month.”

That’s “would have”, because Jackson couldn’t pay. This time last year, he was laid off, got divorced and lost his health benefits.

He worried that he wouldn’t be able to afford the insulin he needs to control his diabetes. So he started cutting back.

“Instead of taking 60 units twice a day I was taking 30 units twice a day,” Jackson told NPR. “The idea behind that was if I watched what I would eat and then stay with the 30 units — I would keep my blood sugar down enough that hopefully it would not be much of a problem.”
But cutting back on insulin for eight months did cause problems. Jackson developed numbness in his foot and toes, and nerve damage in his eye – all complications of uncontrolled diabetes. “My left eye actually shut; wouldn’t open,” Jackson says. “The muscle for my eyelid won’t open.”

An ophthalmologist gave Jackson a discount. But Jackson is still struggling to make payments.

Despite Progress, African Americans Still Hard Hit By Medical Bills

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  2. Are Unpaid Medical Bills Dragging the Economy Down?
  3. 1 in 5 American Families Having Trouble Paying Medical Bills… Are You One of Them?
  4. One More For the Celebrity Medical Bankruptcy Files: Zsa Zsa Gabor Forced to Sell House to Pay Medical Bills
  5. Should We Just Start Bake Sales to Pay Our Medical Bills?

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