ACA expands coverage, but will consumers be able to pay the bill?

Although the Affordable Care Act will add tens of millions of Americans to the insurance rolls over the next several years, many will still be burdened by medical debts due to high deductibles and co-payments, USA Today reported.

The average deductible for silver-level plans being sold to 34 states via the federal health insurance exchange is $3,000 and more than $5,000 for the bronze-level plans. The lowest out-of-pocket costs were $4,350 for individuals and $8,700 for families. Meanwhile, the average family has only about $3,000 on hand to defray medical expenses, notes the article. 

And data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated 34 percent of enrollees in higher-deductible health plans had difficulty paying medical bills, compared to 24 percent in plans with lower deductibles. 

"The ACA is an important safety net, but it doesn't necessarily solve the problem of high up-front medical expenses for those who don't have ability to pay for them," Matt Eyles, an executive vice president with Avalere Health, told USA Today.

Medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. Patients are asking providers to make their pricing more transparent in order to better choose their care based on cost, as well as expressing concern about how the ACA will impact their out-of-pocket costs. And, they're more likely to link their overall care experience to how much they have to pay.

However, officials with the Department of Health and Human Services say the situation is still drastically improved compared to prior to the ACA, when health plans enrollees faced virtually limitless costs, depending on their levels of coverage.

To learn more:
- read the USA Today article
- check out the CDC data

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