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New health care law may not have much effect on medical debt

People in Illinois and all around the country have had mixed reactions to the Affordable Care Act. One of the main ideas behind the plan is to prevent out-of-control expenses for families who can't shoulder them if a catastrophic medical event takes place. As a result, several different plans were made available for people who aren't able to get insurance through their employers.

While the law may lead to more people in the U.S. having health care coverage, it might not do much to prevent folks from accumulating an increasing amount of medical debt. Already, medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy for Americans, and research indicates that it might be unlikely to subside with the new law in place.

Researchers found that about a third of people in high-deductible insurance plans experienced difficulty paying their medical bills. This compares with about one-quarter of people who had plans with lower deductibles. This is important because many of the government plans have relatively high deductibles.

Also, many families who are eligible to have coverage under the Affordable Care Act are unlikely to be able to absorb unexpected expenses. People rarely plan to get sick or injured, of course, and many people don't have enough savings to cover expensive medical crises.

Folks whose medical debt is hanging over their heads might choose to consider filing for bankruptcy. Debt relief may be possible for people whose medical bills are taking up a disproportionate amount of their income -- not to mention all the time and energy trying to figure out how to take care of those debts.

Source: USA Today, "Medical debt will persist despite health law," Jayne O'Donnell and Paul Overberg, Jan. 15, 2013

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