As the Affordable Care Act continues to evolve, it’s changing the way many Americans are paying for their healthcare. And while it comes with its own set of struggles, the ACA is showing good signs for Americans’ medical debt problems.

Decline in Medical Bill Issues

The results of a survey recently released by the Commonwealth Fund shows that medical bill problems are generally on the decline, significantly so in some cases, and many of these changes are linked to the Affordable Care Act. The survey interviewed adults between the ages of 19-64 and asked them a variety of questions about their medical situation. Two very pertinent results of the survey are below:

                                                                                                                              2012                      2014                                 
Had problems paying or unable to pay medical bills                                     55 million            43 million

Contacted by collection agency for unpaid medical bills                               32 million            27 million

What This Means for Self-Pay

Obviously, these numbers show a great thing: people are starting to have a much easier time paying their medical bills. The survey doesn’t state how these people are paying their portions, but the drastic declines in patients being contacted by collection agencies is remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, because of the ACA, patients may not be responsible for their entire bill any longer. This means that the portion of the bill they are responsible for becomes much easier to pay.

Second, it allows a medical facility’s accounts receivable staff to focus more time on the self-pay patients—those who may be opting out of any insurance plans for one reason or another—to help ensure they are in the optimal situation to make timely payments. This may mean more time dedicated to developing payment plans, or simply educating patients on their financial responsibilities.

It’s Not Over

Of course, it could also mean the exact opposite: that your accounts receivable department is so much busier working with insurance, it may be more difficult for them to devote the necessary time to patients who are opting to self-pay. It’s important that these patients be given the time they need to understand what they owe, and how they should make payments.

Even with these numbers, it’s obvious there are still a great number of patients who struggle with paying their medical bills. For them, it’s important to develop an accounts receivable plan that works best for the medical facility and the patient, to ensure the patient can make timely payments and help the facility close their revenue cycle.