For many families in the U.S., unexpected medical expenses can lead to financial hardship. Indeed, studies indicate that medical debt is one of the most common causes of bankruptcy filings. According to one study, medical bills lead to as many as two million bankruptcy filings each year. Lawmakers have long known that medical bills can be a heavy burden for families and this is one of the reasons that Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. While the Affordable Care Act may help people get the medical care they need, some experts believe it will do little to address the problem of significant medical debt.

The newspaper USA Today recently conducted an analysis of deductible expenses for the plans available on the federal health insurance exchange. Their researchers discovered that the yearly deductible expenses for available plans average approximately $3,000. What is worse, the yearly deductibles for the bronze level plans – the least expensive plans available on the exchange – average just over $5,000. Considering that many people choosing these bronze-level plans may be financially vulnerable to begin with, $5,000 could be much more than their pocketbooks can bear.

USA Today also found that out of pocket limits for plans available on were high. The lowest out of pocket limits for an individual with the lowest level plan is $4,350. For a family on the same plan, the out-of-pocket limit is $8,700. The Affordable Care Act sets a limit on the amount of out of pocket expenses a plan can require individuals to pay. The limit is $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for family plans.

Although many plans offer out of pocket limits far lower than the federally imposed maximum, there can still be substantial costs for consumers. For example, it is not uncommon for the lower level plans to also have separate deductible amounts for prescriptions. For individuals with chronic conditions that require prescription medications, it is likely that they will be required to pay the federally imposed maximum.

Fortunately, for those who are struggling with significant medical debt, filing for bankruptcy is an option. More than anything else, filing for bankruptcy offers individuals and families the opportunity to make a fresh financial start. If you are struggling with debt, consider speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy attorney can provide you with information about your options and can help you decide what steps to take next.

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