Will health care reform reduce Georgians’ medical debt? (1)
Although the Affordable Care Act has been touted as a major, much-needed reform of the American health care system, many Georgia residents remain uncertain on just how the new law will change their health insurance and the way that they seek and pay for medical care. And they are not alone. Many people, even state and federal officials, are not yet sure whether the health care law will reduce the average American’s medical debt load.
One thing is for sure, however: medical debt is a problem that needs to be addressed. Currently, it is a leading cause of bankruptcy in Atlanta and around the country. And the truly unfortunate aspect of medical debt is that it is largely the product of bad luck, such as being in a car accident or contracting a random illness.
Currently, the cost of medical care in the United States is rising faster than inflation and wages. In order to maintain profit margins, health insurance companies are passing more costs on to their policyholders, requiring them to pay higher insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments. The Affordable Care Act does not appear to address this practice.
Similarly, hospitals and clinics are becoming more forceful about collecting payments from patients and their family members. This practice is pushing more people into bankruptcy. Although there is no solid data about the number of bankruptcies caused by medical debt, a recent random sample of bankruptcy filings found that nearly 90 percent of the filers had some amount of medical debt.
We will continue this discussion in our next blog post.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, “Health reform won’t shield Utah families from medical debt,” Kirsten Stewart, Oct. 21, 2012