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Obamacare changes could impact those with medical debt

For those in Washington who have suffered through a serious illness or injury, the process of recovering and moving past that event can be a challenge. For some families, the financial strife that follows a serious medical event is even more difficult to overcome than the condition itself. Very often, even those who have health insurance are faced with a mountain of medical bills, and are often unable to meet all of those medical debt obligations. The end result can be seemingly endless phone calls and letters from bill collectors.

The current administration has pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare. However, details on how that goal might be accomplished have been scarce. If the current system is altered without a strong back-up plan in place, many people could find themselves without any form of coverage at all. That could lead to increased medical debt, and a spike in debt collections efforts.

The Affordable Care Act, which is commonly known as Obamacare, put several protections in place to help consumers address medical debt. Under the law, nonprofit hospitals must wait a period of 120 days before they can initiate certain collections efforts. These hospitals must also follow guidelines on providing charity care to those who qualify, and limit the amount charged for services.

If and when the current administration is able to make good on the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, families in Washington and across the nation could be affected. For those who lose coverage or experience a decline in covered services, that could lead to additional medical debt. It is also unclear whether debt collections restrictions would be continued under the new plan, or if consumers would need to rely upon state laws that address the issue of debt collections.

Source:, "Overhauling Obamacare could lead to spike in medical debt collections", Michelle Andrews, Jan. 26, 2017

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