Affordable Care Act will not solve medical debt crisis for many

Many heralded the passage of the Affordable Care Act as the solution to the health care insurance crisis that the U.S. was facing. While it is true that under the new law millions of people who previously did not have health insurance will be insured, the costs associated with these health insurance plans and health care itself may still leave people vulnerable to amassing overwhelming medical debts.

High premiums and deductibles

A USA Today analysis of health care plans available under the ACA showed that health care may still be too expensive for many in the U.S. The analysis showed that the average deductible for health insurance plans from 34 states available on the federal health insurance exchange was $3,000 across all levels of coverage - bronze, silver and gold. However, the average deductible for bronze-level plans, the plans with the cheapest premiums but with the highest deductibles and the least amount of coverage, averaged $5,082.

In addition to paying deductibles, many insurance plans require patients to pay co-insurance costs, even after they have met their annual deductibles. The ACA limits those out-of-pocket costs to $6,350 for single people and $12,700 for families. However, those co-insurance payments are too much for many to handle. Additionally, many plans have deductibles for prescription drugs that are separate from the overall deductible. Many plans do not apply money that patients spend on health care providers that are out-of-network against patients' deductibles, as well.

Those with chronic conditions that require on-going care will likely hit the maximums for out-of-pocket payments and their deductibles - and many are not in positions to bear those costs.

Medical debt crisis

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in January 2014 revealed the extent of the problem of medical debt in the U.S. The study showed that 27 percent of people said they had trouble paying their medical bills in 2012, and 10 percent said that they could not pay at all. The study showed that 21 percent of families who had some form of health insurance still struggled to pay their medical bills. Those who earned 250 percent of the federal poverty level or less and families with minor children were more likely to be overwhelmed with medical debt.

Bankruptcy may be an option

While the ACA may provide a safety net for some people to help deal with health care costs, many will not be able to avoid medical debt. Those who have already amassed medical bills also will not be helped by the ACA. Those who have medical bills they cannot pay may want to consider bankruptcy as a way to regain financial stability. Unsecured debts such as medical and credit card bills can be discharged so people can move forward without the crushing burden of debt. If you have questions about whether bankruptcy is right for your situation, seek the guidance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can advise you about your debt relief options.