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Patient Advocate Foundation fields nearly 50 percent more requests for assistance in 2010

The Patient Advocate Foundation served nearly 83,000 patients seeking help with access to care issues in 2010, an increase of 49.8 percent from 2009. Of that number, two-thirds reported debt crisis issues related to direct medical expenses or other cost-of-living expenses.

The findings, published in the 2010 Patient Data Analysis Report, detail national and state-by-state healthcare access issues, including insurance obstacles, medical debt crises and job retention issues confronted by patients in the United States served in 2010 by the PAF.

[See also: Consumers look for solutions to tackle healthcare expenses; Americans spend more on healthcare than government studies show, Deloitte says]

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"PAF publishes the annual PDAR to provide an up-to-date snapshot of healthcare trends in America from the front lines that can serve as a go-to reference for healthcare policymakers and other stakeholders as they work to finalize and implement the healthcare reform law," said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, founder and CEO of the PAF. "The 2010 PDAR reveals an extreme increase in the number of patients seeking support for access to care issues. As the number of patients assisted by PAF increases year to year, the PAF population becomes more representative of the U.S. population in terms of demographic characteristics and access issues."

Among the findings, the PDAR showed debt crisis issues affect more than two-thirds of those seeking information or assistance from the PAF, though 76 percent had some form of public or private insurance. Seventy-one percent of the patients who contacted the PAF for assistance in 2010 were cancer patients. The remaining 29 percent had chronic diseases such as cardiac conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, COPD, HIV, AIDS, chronic kidney disease or autoimmune diseases.

Medicare beneficiaries represented 25 percent of requests to the PAF in 2010, a 38 percent increase from 2009. The foundation also saw increases in requests from pediatric patients and a 14 percent jump in requests from people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The PDAR, first published in 1997, is intended to provide information about access-of-care issues at the frontlines of healthcare. The annual report serves as a source of information for policy makers including Congressional staffers, lawmakers, MedPac and other policy and advocacy groups.

"PAF's experience in serving an extensive patient base of individuals facing a range of chronic and/or debilitating conditions positions it as a well-informed and credible organization when identifying the healthcare access challenges faced by Americans throughout the country," said Allen Dobson, MD, president of Dobson DaVanzo & Associates, a former director of research for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and contributing author of the 2010 PDAR.