AHA Pushes Back on Medical Debt Report

The American Hospital Association is fighting back after a report was released last week that said about 15% of all non-elderly adults are carrying some amount of unpaid medical debt, saying that the report failed to mention the underlying root-causes of the problem while also failing “to appreciate the looming crisis” that is likely to occur when the public health emergency is ended, resulting in fewer individuals being eligible for Medicaid coverage.

The driving forces of medical debt are inadequate enrollment in comprehensive healthcare coverage and high-deductible health plans that “intentionally” make patients pay for more of their coverage, according to the AHA.

“…Both the government and the private market is failing too many patients, leaving too many either uninsured or with subpar plans that expose too many people to bills they cannot afford to pay,” the AHA wrote. “While hospital financial assistance is crucial to helping many individuals of limited means access care, it is no substitute for a solution that gets to the root causes of medical debt.”

The report calls for the end of “deceptively inadequate” health insurance plans that are marketed as being cheaper yet still comprehensive. “Subscribers for these types of plans often find themselves responsible for their entire medical bill without any help from their health plan and can accumulate significant medical debt.”

Among the other solutions proposed by the AHA are:

  • Restricting the sale of high-deductible health plans to only those individuals with the demonstrated means to afford the associated cost-sharing.
  • Prohibiting the sale of health sharing ministry products and short-term limited duration plans that go longer than 90 days.
  • Lowering the maximum out-of-pocket cost-sharing limits.
  • Eliminating the use of deductibles and co-insurance and rely solely on flat co-payments, which are easier for patients to anticipate.
  • Removing providers from the collection of cost-sharing altogether and require that health plans collect directly from their enrollees the cost-sharing payments they impose. This approach would eliminate the vast majority of patient bills from providers altogether.

For companies that collect on healthcare debt, understanding the root-cause of a consumer’s problem may help find a solution that works out for everyone.

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