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Health insurance mandate or no, medical debt likely to persist

 

As of last Friday, according to KARK-TV, an estimated 100,000 people in Arkansas who may have once lacked health insurance coverage now have it. That includes those who signed up through the marketplace that was created by virtue of the federal Affordable Care Act, and those who signed up under a "private option" expansion of the state's Medicaid program.

That may be something of a disappointment for supporters of the program, especially considering that state officials estimated last year that about a half million people were without coverage.

What may be equally disappointing is an analysis by USA TODAY which estimates that, even with insurance, many will be confronted with the reality of excessive medical debt.

The basis of the prediction is the observation that the average deductible for all of the plans offered through the federal exchanges in 34 states is $3,000. The least expensive plans, known as bronze-level plans, have average deductibles that run around $5,100.

Many experts suggest that those costs, combined with deductibles that are required for many prescription drugs and the monthly premium costs impose a level of cost sharing that many people can't even budget for, much less absorb. All these challenges could leave someone just one illness or accident away from financial hardship.

Anyone facing those kinds of difficulties may find themselves considering their legal options. Among those that should be looked at, with the help of an experienced attorney, is bankruptcy. The process, while complicated, may offer the possibility of discharging medical debt as part of efforts to restore financial well-being.

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

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