Experts say Affordable Care Act has helped people avoid bankruptcy
Posted June 26
While congressional debate continues over health care, there is another element worth considering.
Personal bankruptcy filings have been cut in half over the past six years. Some experts credit health coverage available under the Affordable Care Act for the drop.
Katie Weber knows the importance of good health insurance.
The 29-year-old is fighting cancer, and she says her treatments would have bankrupted her if not for the financial protections available under the ACA.
"I don't know how many MRIs I've had, but in the dozens for sure," Weber said,.
Bankruptcy courts never ask people why they are filing, but many bankruptcy and legal experts Consumer Reports spoke with agree – medical bills were a leading cause of personal bankruptcy before health insurance expanded under the ACA.
"Medical bills are often unexpected, large and unavoidable, so people who don't have insurance can run up massive debt in a relatively short period of time," Consumer Reports' Allen St. John said.
Since 2010, personal bankruptcy filings have dropped by about 50 percent. Experts credit the improved economy for part of the decline, as well as laws passed in 2005 that make it harder to declare bankruptcy.
But nearly all the experts Consumer Reports interviewed also point to expanded health insurance as a major influence on the drop.
"Our reporting found that coverage for pre-existing conditions and also a ban on lifetime limits were really important because it prevented people with serious medical issues from having to file bankruptcy," St. John said.
Weber said she hopes those safeguards remain a part of any new health care legislation.
"Even if I get better, when I get better, the follow-up will be continuous," she said. "The idea that, moving forward, insurers wouldn't cover some of the things that I really need to be covered is really scary to me, to be honest."