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How the Affordable Care Act has increased medical debt

One of the main purposes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to ensure that every person has access to health insurance. That goal has largely been accomplished as millions of previously uninsured Americans are now covered by some kind of health insurance policy. However, many people in Tennessee are finding that having insurance has not prevented them from incurring medical related debt.

In order to make plans affordable, many of the ones available on the health insurance marketplace have high deductibles ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. According to the Tennessean, almost 25 percent of people in the country have a $2,000 deductible. Since almost two-thirds of people do not even have half that amount in savings, many people are going in to debt to cover their medical expenses.

While the ACA did not invent high deductible health plans, it has had the effect of making them the new norm. According to Forbes, 86 percent of employers will offer their workers plans with high deductibles in 2016. This is a sharp 54 percent increase from just five years ago. For one quarter of those companies, the high deductible plan will be the employees' only option.

The original idea behind high deductible health plans was to expose consumers to the actual costs of routine medical care, while providing fuller coverage in the case of serious illnesses. However, under the ACA routine medical expenses such as checkups and preventative care are covered but access to many specialists and prescription drugs is not, and that is where consumers are feeling the crunch. Therefore, even some people with health coverage are just one catastrophic illness away from being broke.

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