The U.S. health care system has been a hot button topic for several years now. Its importance has only increased with the arrival of a new executive administration in Washington D.C. and the promises it made on the campaign trail. But regardless of how the issue is used as a political football, to many Illinois residents, how the system works, or rather, doesn't can be a very personal problem.
It is an unfortunate fact of modern economies that the costs of services tend to rise over time. This is especially true of necessary services such as medical care. Even though such costs have risen at a slower rate recently than prior to 2010, expenses remain high for certain types of care. And, while the number of people who are uninsured has dropped dramatically in recent years, there are still those without medical insurance, a population which may rise in the near future, given the uncertainty about federal law in this area.
Americans everywhere deal with debt issues on a daily basis. For some, primarily younger people, the primary concern is student loan debt. For others, the primary concerns are mortgage debt, credit card debt and auto loan debt. However, for older Americans, there is another type of debt that could be the primary point of concern: medical debt. So, for Illinois residents who are facing problems with medical debt, what options are available?
One of the most prominent reasons that an Illinois resident can run into financial trouble is through medical expenses. These can be due to an unexpected accident or incident, or an ongoing illness or condition. While the government has been seeking ways for people to have health coverage to avoid running into massive hospital bills, these methods are in flux, with confusion as to what will eventually happen. Often, those who are confronted with medical expenses so large that they have no hope of paying them will reference having no health insurance as a reason. There is hope for those who are dealing with this all-too-common issue: filing for bankruptcy.
Everyone in Illinois is supposed to have some sort of medical coverage. That's one of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Still, as we have noted in previous posts, that doesn't mean the troubling issue of medical debt has disappeared. Such bills continue to be the reason behind most filings for bankruptcy.
You may have heard of the EpiPen. The medical device can be a lifesaver for someone who goes into anaphylactic shock because of a severe allergy attack. It delivers an injection of epinephrine into a victim's body, opening airways and narrowing blood vessels. Epinephrine has been around a long time. What makes the EpiPen different is the delivery system. It's so easy that almost anyone can give the shot.
Many individuals and families in Illinois and elsewhere across the country know -- either anecdotally or from painful personal experience -- that medical debt is a prime catalyst driving further financial difficulties.
There are not too many incontrovertible truths. Death and taxes, perhaps. Experienced bankruptcy law practitioners in Illinois and elsewhere would likely agree that another - one that can lead to serious financial difficulty - is unexpected medical debt.
Comedian John Oliver knows how to make a point. He did it again earlier this month when he took it upon himself to buy up $15 million in consumer medical debt and then proceeded to forgive it all. Perhaps someone in Illinois is smiling today as a result.
You should be at the center of your healthcare, but how often do you feel you are when you have to wade through sheaves of documents from multiple entities about the care you have received. The care provider talks about treatments and procedures one way. The insurance company refers to them using other terms. Many in Illinois will probably get an explanation of benefits from an insurer after treatment. If you're lucky, it will state somewhere that "This is not a bill," but it will still indicate an amount you may owe. What? Are we all on the same planet?