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We are in the midst of a medical debt crisis in America, which is affecting the lives of more than 100 million Americans, including many Montanans. This crisis is worsening racial disparities in health and wealth and forcing Montanans to change the way they live due to financial constraints.

That’s why with Open Enrollment running through January 15, 2023, Consumers for Quality Care (CQC) is sharing information that Montanans can use to help keep their out-of-pocket health care costs low and avoid medical debt. The keys are to avoid tricky health insurance plans and policies, to ask good questions about charity care options, and to know your consumer rights if you ever get stuck with a surprise medical bill.

The health insurance choices made now can determine financial stability down the line. With selecting a plan, it’s important to watch out for Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance plans (STDLI). These plans are exempt from many of the consumer protections found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and though they offer lower premiums, they include pre-existing condition exclusions, dollar caps on covered services, and a lack of preventative care coverage. STLDI plans often spend less than 10 cents on the dollar on your health care — and out-of-pocket expenses can pile up quickly under these plans.

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The Honorable Donna M. Christensen is a member of the Consumers for Quality Care board. She retired in 2015 from the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served nine terms. She is the first female physician to serve as a member in the history of the U.S. Congress.

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