California readers are likely aware of media coverage of the recent protest actions of the group Strike Debt. The group is an offshoot of the well-known Occupy Wall Street movement, and has recently organized a number of events aimed at drawing attention to the failing of the current health care system in our nation. Staggering medical bills and enormous corporate profits are the focus of the movement.

At recent protests, participants handed out fliers to the public that outline the issues at hand. Among the information included was a statement that as many as 62 percent of personal bankruptcy filings are linked to financial difficulties paying medical bills. In addition, as many as 78 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy due to medical debt had health insurance when they experienced the triggering illness or injury.

Strike Debt argues that health insurance is not an adequate protection from medical debt. In addition, the group points out that our existing for-profit health care system leads to enormous salaries for executives while patents are rendered destitute due to the high cost of medical treatment. As an example, one participant points out that under one health insurance plan, a woman who gets pregnant and has a baby could end up owing as much as $10,000.

As many in California already know, having health insurance is no guarantee that significant financial problems will not come on the heels of a major illness or injury. In many cases, individuals and families are devastated from the onset of medical bills, and are forced to seek debt relief. Many turn to personal bankruptcy to eliminate these debts, at the same time that groups such as Strike Debt work to effect large-scale reform of what many see as a broken health care system.

Source: truth-out.org, “Strike Debt Kicks Off Second Debt Buy-Up With March for Universal Healthcare,” John Knefel, March 26, 2013