Will health care reform reduce Georgians’ medical debt? (2)
Earlier this week, we began a discussion on medical debt and bankruptcy, and whether the Affordable Care Act would relieve any of the pressure of high medical bills on Georgia families. This is an issue that affects a huge portion of the U.S. population: economists say that medical debt is the most common type of debt owed in this country. It is, they say, more common than car loans, student loans, credit card debt, mortgages and other forms of debt.
With such a far-reaching impact, it seems that reducing medical debt would be a major priority of the Affordable Care Act. But while the act will allow more people to become insured and force insurance companies to spend more of their collected premiums on actual medical care, it remains unclear whether the law will actually reduce the burden on people who receive medical care in the U.S.
To determine whether the law will have an impact on hospital debt, one media report looked at Massachusetts, where the health care law that inspired the Affordable Care Act took effect about five years ago.
In 2009, about 53 percent of the Massachusetts residents that filed for bankruptcy that year blamed medical debt for their financial difficulties. That is a slight decrease from 2007, when 59 percent of bankruptcy filers had significant medical debt.
However, a 2010 survey found that one in five Massachusetts adults were actively paying down medical debt, which is the same as was found in a 2006 survey.
So it appears that data from Massachusetts provides no real answers on whether the health care law will reduce medical debt in Georgia and across the U.S. It seems that only time will tell. In the meantime, however, government and health care officials need to continue to work on reforming the medical system, or it will continue to be a drag on families and the economy as a whole.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, “Health reform won’t shield Utah families from medical debt,” Kirsten Stewart, Oct. 21, 2012