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Affordable Care Act may not help prevent medical debt

Although the Affordable Care Act is designed to take the burden of medical expenses off of those that were previously uninsured, medical debt may still continue to be a problem. The ACA will protect many, but the plans do still come with deductibles and costs that those covered will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.

The current average deductible for the 34 states covered under the federal exchange is $3,000. For those signing up for the bronze plans, the deductibles can be over $5,000. The minimum for out-of-pocket expenses were $8,700 for families and $4,350 for single persons. There are plans that have lower out-of-pocket limits than the federal plans, but those can come with additional deductibles for prescriptions and expenses for out-of-network health care providers.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, most people in the U.S. have less than $3,000 to cover unexpected medical bills. For individuals or families who do not have a few thousand dollars around to cover the deductibles and out-of-pockets costs when unexpected medical situations occur, taking on medical debt may be the only option.

The cost of a deductible does have an impact on a person’s ability to pay bills. According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, people with high-deductible health plans had more trouble keeping up with medical bills than those with lower-deductible plans.

Medical debt is currently the most common reason for bankruptcy in the U.S, and while the ACA is a step in the right direction, overwhelming medical debt will likely still be an issue for some. Filing for bankruptcy to eliminate medical debt is an option, but those considering it should understand the laws governing such actions. An experienced bankruptcy attorney may help by providing advice and guidance to those who need to find financial relief from overwhelming debt.

Source: USA Today, “Medical debt will persist despite health law” Jayne O’Donnell and Paul Overberg, Jan. 15, 2014

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