In a recent survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, fewer people than ever before are struggling to pay for medical care thanks to new provisions under the Affordable Care Act. Since the law took effect last year, more people now have access to affordable healthcare, and medical costs are leveling out across the country.
For the first time since 2005, the number of people who aren’t able to pay their medical bills dropped to 35 percent of the population or 64 million people. In 2005, that number was 58 million. Since the Commonwealth Fund started conducting their annual health insurance survey, the number has increased until this year. Last year, for example, the number of people struggling with medical debt topped 75 million or 41 percent of the working population.
Experts with the Commonwealth Fund assert that better access to affordable insurance is partly responsible for the decrease in medical debt. With covered preventive care and cost-effective insurance plans available to more people, consumers now can receive the care they need without worrying about the possibility of debt or bankruptcy.
According to Investopedia.com, the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. Harvard researchers conducted a study and determined that 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in America relate to medical debt. Surprisingly, medical debt has little to do with whether a person has health insurance or not. In the study, 78 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had access to medical insurance when they filed.
The affordability and coverage options in medical insurance matter more in terms of debt. Under Obamacare, American consumers enjoy access not only to more affordable coverage but better options nationwide. The provisions of the law make it easier for people to seek care when they need it and to prevent serious conditions from forming with routine care. Medical debt can have a large impact on a consumer’s credit score. Experts with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report that unpaid medical debt affects about 20 percent of credit reports.
Not only has medical debt decreased in America, but millions of people now report an ability to visit doctors when they have concerns rather than putting it off. The Commonwealth survey found that fewer people now delay treatments and necessary medical care. In 2012, approximately 80 million people went without appropriate medical care simply because they couldn’t afford it. That number represents the highest percentage since the survey was first conducted. Last year, only 66 million people reported that they avoided medical care due to cost. The number may still be high, but it represents an overall shift in mentality due to the Affordable Care Act.
The Commonwealth Fund has been conducting its health insurance survey annually since 2001, and this year marks the first time since the survey’s initial findings that the number of uninsured Americans has fallen. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of uninsured working-age adults fell from 37 million to 29 million. With more people seeking medical care and fewer people struggling with medical debt, the effects of Obamacare can be measured by the drop in uninsured Americans overall.