Crush of medical debt

By Nicholas H. Anton, M.D.
The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.), Jan. 9, 2016

Medical bills and medical debt are increasing despite the Affordable Care Act (“Medical bills vex even the insured,” Wednesday).

Even with the lowest increase in health care inflation and premium costs over the past five years, more Americans, with or without insurance, are experiencing difficulty paying their medical bills. Insurance companies have increased co-pays and deductibles while narrowing the panel of doctors and hospitals patients are allowed to use.

As reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of insured Americans face medical debt. Of those with medical debt, 31 percent have more than $5,000, and 13 percent have more than $10,000. Medical debt results in 62 percent of all individual bankruptcies, and, of those, 75 percent had insurance at the onset of their illness. In addition, individuals and families experience difficulty paying their rent or their mortgage and even buying food.

Opponents of Obamacare have offered solutions that maintain for-profit insurance companies, lower costs by providing fewer benefits and increase out-of-pocket expenses, resulting in lower-quality health care and persistent medical debt.

The solution: Don’t get sick — or improve and expand Medicare to cover everyone while maintaining comprehensive benefits without co-pays or deductibles, improving our health and eliminating medical debt.

Dr. Nicholas H. Anton resides in Santa Rosa.