Three years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), medical debt remains the biggest cause of bankruptcy. A year ago, U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law. Yet the insurance overhaul it requires has still not fully taken effect. And meanwhile, 49 million Americans remain without health insurance.
Given the scandalously high cost of medical care, it is therefore no wonder that medical debt remains the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Indeed, in San Antonio and across the country even many people with health insurance struggle with medical debt, if their policies are not able to provide realistic protection against astronomical costs.
In a special report in Time magazine last month called “Bitter Pill,” Steven Brill laid out the perverse logic (or utter lack of logic) behind the sky-high costs. Passage of the ACA does not really address the dynamics that drive large hospital companies to continually up the ante on the bills.
Those bills are especially a burden to those who are least able to afford them in the first place and are not old enough to qualify for Medicare. It can be a nightmare to face this, with a health crisis followed so closely by unmanageable bills. Some people have turned to medical billing advocates – an entirely new type of job – trying to negotiate the inflated bills down.
Don’t forget, however, that bankruptcy is a much more comprehensive form of debt relief than merely negotiating a reduction in an excessive bill. Regardless of whether it’s a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13, the goal is a fresh financial start, not merely a discount on dubious debt. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to swallow the bitter pill of medical debt.
Source: “Uninsured Americans get hit with highest medical bills,” Bloomberg News, 3-11-13
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