Study: insurance may still leave major debt

(NBC) - A new study out of UCLA about health care might surprise you. It finds even if you have health care coverage, you could still end up in major debt.

David Manier has health insurance. But: "So now I have a bill for $17,000, and I'm trying to dig my way out of that a little bit."

It's a bill for medical treatment he says he didn't even need. How did that happen -- with insurance?

"Well actually I'm on a co-pay situation and then once that's maxed out, you're hit for pretty much everything else. It's a difficult situation," said Manier.

Dr. Richard Kronick from the University of California, San Diego was one of the researchers on the study that shows in 2007, 2.2 million Californian adults had medical debt.

Of them, two-thirds incurred it while they were insured.

"Many people have insurance that exposes them to large medical bills when they get sick," said Dr. Kronick.

Some reasons those with coverage end up owing money include high co-pays, no limits on out-of-pocket expenses, services not covered and high deductibles.

"We have a high deductible plan of four thousand dollars," said Amy Hall, who also has health insurance. "After we pay $4,000, we pay 10% of total bill, but because of that high deductible plan, I won't go to the doctor. I won't go."

Hall says she does not even go for preventative health care. Same with her friend who has a $2,000 deductible.

"Not happy. Not happy," said Hall. "I hope I don't get sick."

And when talking about out-of-pocket expenses, Dr. Kronick says some plans don't have limits.

Think about it, you get sick and your insurance company pays 80%, you pay 20%.

If there is no limit on out-of-pocket expenses, you owe a lot of money.