Insurance Coverage Keeps Down Medical Debt

While the new administration and Republican-controlled congress may be moving towards the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Michael Hiltzik notes that recent data shows that the law has helped consumers find better access to healthcare and reduced debt:

The data “would seem to refute the commonly held belief that the marketplace population is becoming sicker,” observes health economist Timothy Jost, writing in Health Affairs. In fact, according to the figures from 2016 in the latest report, the customer base is getting healthier and the risk pools have been stabilizing.

Americans may be harmed by the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act due to a potential loss of restrictions preventing insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.  Risk-adjustment causes unhealthy Americans to lack health insurance, however the affordable care act prevented insurers from purposefully insuring only low risk customers.  The ACA does not, however, prevent insurers from finding loopholes in this system:

There are many ways for insurers to discourage sicker patients from signing up — for instance, they can drop certain drugs from their prescription formularies or assemble narrow physician networks that skimp on certain specialties.

The possible repeal of the ACA may allow risk-adjustment practices to skyrocket, and the Americans who need coverage the most may be the first ones to lose it. These are the people most likely to incur unmanageable debts related to their medical care.