Why Excessive Medical Bills Have Not Gone Away

Posted on January 13, 2016 at 12:00pm by
Photo of a family budget

Excessive medical bills still affect the lives of too many people, even those with health insurance policies. In some cases, medical bills can pile up into the tens of thousands of dollars. Even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, there are still ways that people can be stuck with medical debt.

  • Some health insurance plans have very high deductibles, meaning people seeking medical care might have to pay a certain cost up front before future medical expenses are covered by their policies. For example, health insurance policies may have a $5,000 deductible, meaning the policy holder might have to pay that much before insurance covers the remaining bills. For a household with low income and other debts, $5,000 is unaffordable.
  • Being brought to an out-of-network hospital after a car accident, and staying in the emergency room for hours or days, can cause huge medical bills that might not be covered by insurance policies. People can also receive care at hospitals within their network, only to be given service by a doctor or nurse that is out-of-network. In this case, the bills are also unaffordable for many people.
  • Most health insurance plans do not cover the full costs incurred during hospital visits. For Americans who received Bronze plans through the health care exchange, only 60 percent of costs might be covered after the deductible is paid. Medical bills in the tens of thousands of dollars can still burden families with excessive debt.
  • Some Americans are opting out of the healthcare exchange and do not receive coverage through an employer. This group is the most at risk for receiving excessive medical bills. For some, they have made the decision that it is cheaper to pay the IRS penalty than to pay for 12 months of coverage.

Excessive Medical Bills Can Be Discharged or Reduced in Bankruptcy

For Americans stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt, filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is still an option. Medical bills are unsecured debt, meaning they can be discharged through bankruptcy.