Poll: Many insured people have trouble paying medical bills

Poll: Many insured people have trouble paying medical bills
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Even many people with health insurance have problems paying medical bills, according to a new survey. 

The survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Times finds that 20 percent of people with health insurance say they or someone in their household had problems paying medical bills in the last year. 

That figure is significantly less than the 53 percent of uninsured people who had problems paying medical bills, but it shows that even people with insurance are not completely out of the woods. 

“As the nation moves beyond the debate over the Affordable Care Act, issues of health care costs and affordability like those highlighted by this survey are likely to play a prominent role in health policy discussions,” the Kaiser study authors write.  

One of the reasons is high deductibles — the amount that someone has to pay before insurance kicks in. 

The survey finds that 26 percent of people in high-deductible plans had problems paying bills, more than the 15 percent of people in low-deductible plans. 

High deductibles have emerged as a growing subject of debate. Republicans have criticized ObamaCare plans for their higher deductibles. The average deductible for a “silver” level ObamaCare plan, the most popular, is $2,951, compared to $1,217 in the average employer-sponsored plan, according to the Commonwealth Fund. 

But deductibles in employer-sponsored plans have been growing steadily over the past 10 years as well, more than double their average in 2006, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Unions and congressional Democratic leaders feared that ObamaCare’s Cadillac tax on high-cost insurance plans would make the problem worse by shifting more out-of-pocket costs onto workers, and they successfully delayed the tax for two years in December. 

Backers of the tax argue that the long-term solution to affordability concerns is to address rising healthcare costs overall, and the tax helps do that. 

Democratic presidenital front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPaltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over alleged election interference MORE has also proposed a new tax credit to help people with high out-of-pocket costs, in addition to the financial assistance that ObamaCare already provides. 

Tuesday’s survey finds that the rate of problems paying medical bills is roughly the same, around 20 percent, across employer-sponsored plans, Medicaid and plans people purchase on their own, like in ObamaCare. 

ObamaCare’s coverage expansion also appears to have helped more people pay their medical bills. 

A study from the Urban Institute in May found that the number of adults having trouble paying medical bills declined from 22 percent in September 2013, before ObamaCare took effect, to 17 percent in March 2015. That translates to 9.4 million fewer people having medical bill problems. 

Being a cost-conscious healthcare consumer is also harder than it might seem. Prices for healthcare services are often not clear. About seven in 10 people in Tuesday’s survey said that it was difficult to find information about how much a service cost.