Posts Tagged "medical"

Medicaid Expansion Reduces Unpaid Debt

One in five Americans is burdened by unpaid medical bills that have been sent to a collection agency. Medical debt is the most common type of debt in collections.

This burden falls hardest on lower-paid people, who have little money to spare between paychecks.  These are the same people the 2014 Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed to help.  Some 6.5 million additional low-income workers were getting insurance coverage just two years after Medicaid’s expansion, which increased the program’s income ceiling for eligibility in the states that chose to adopt the expansion.

mapThe evidence mounts that this major policy has improved the precarious finances of vulnerable households.

A new study of the regions of the country with the largest percentage of low-income residents found that putting more people on Medicaid has reduced the number of unpaid bills of all kinds that go to collection agencies and cut by $1,000 the amounts that individuals had in collections.

The impact in states that did not expand Medicaid is apparent in Urban Institute data. Five of the 10 states with the highest share of residents owing money for medical bills – North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas – decided against expanding their Medicaid-covered populations under the ACA option. About one in four of their residents have medical debt in collections.

That’s in contrast to Minnesota, which has one of the most generous Medicaid programs in the country and the lowest rate of medical debt collection of any state (3 percent of residents), said Urban Institute economist Signe-Mary McKernan.

“Past due medical debt is a big problem,” she said.  “When [people] have high-quality health care, it makes a difference not only in their physical health but in their financial health.” …
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Despite Medicare, Medical Expenses Bite

Medicare pays for the bulk of the medical care for Americans over 65, but a lot of their income is still eaten up by medical expenses.

The list of expenses is long. The lion’s share goes toward various insurance premiums – for Medicare Part B coverage, Part D prescription drug coverage, and supplemental insurance, whether Medigap, a Medicare Advantage plan, or employer health insurance for retirees. The remaining costs, for copayments and deductibles, are also significant.

These out-of-pocket costs, when added together, averaged about $4,300 annually per person, finds a new study by researchers Melissa McInerney, Matthew Rutledge, and Sara Ellen King of the Center for Retirement Research.

Out-of-pocket costs consume a third of the amount that retirees receive from Social Security, which is the most significant source of retirement income for a wide swath of the nation’s seniors, including many people in the middle-class. Half of seniors get at least half of all their income from the federal program.

The Medicare Part D prescription drug program has given some relief to retirees. After it became effective in 2006, the share of seniors’ income consumed by out-of-pocket costs declined slightly and then declined again after a follow-up reform of Part D began to close a big gap in drug coverage – known as the donut hole – in 2010. …Learn More