Even Insured Individuals Struggle With Medical Debt — What Now?

High deductibles are making some "uninsured" for anything other than emergencies

I read the CORRelations Chart of the Week, “Even Insured Individuals Struggle With Medical Debt” with significant interest and, sadly, personal encounters with all too many patients who've experienced this problem firsthand. The authors point out that many insured patients struggle greatly with medical debt.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded the number of patients with insurance, many patients and physicians assumed that the cost of healthcare would no longer delay or prevent care. We were encouraged that the awkward conversations in the exam rooms discussing necessary treatment that patients couldn’t afford would soon end.

As this CORRelations post pointed out, that didn’t happen.

Instead, the ACA created a new group of patients that could be called “insured, but can’t pay.” High insurance deductibles made them, for practical purposes, “uninsured” other than for catastrophic care. They learned that their insurance only kicked in after they paid sums of money that they often didn’t have.

This results in patients who are distraught, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Here’s what we each can do:

  • Ensure our office staff works with these patients compassionately, so as to enable them to receive care without destroying their personal finances.
  • Remember that discounting or forgiving deductible payments violates federal law; resist the urge to use that tactic.
  • Help families explore reasonable credit options to cover medical costs.
  • Enable staff to help patients better understand their insurance options.