Medical Bills: Leading Cause of Bankruptcy in the US

Every year thousands of Americans are billed for procedures and medications, the costs of which can quickly skyrocket to truly unaffordable amounts for a person or family on an average income. These medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, a problem often unheard of in other countries but not surprising in light of the fact that the US has the highest healthcare costs in the world.

Medical Debt in the United States

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The March 2019 issue of the American Journal of Public Health included an article about medical bankruptcy which indicated that almost 60% of those with debt cited medical bills as one of the leading factors. It is extremely expensive to get sick in the United States. A mere ambulance ride can easily cost $1,000 if not covered by your insurance, and an MRI may cost anywhere from $700 to $5,000. The harder it is to diagnose your medical issue, the more those medical bills will begin to add up.

Not Just the Uninsured

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And it is not just the uninsured who are falling into debt because of medical bills. According to Statista, almost 22% of both insured and uninsured individuals in the US indicated that almost all of their debt was due to medical bills. Health insurance does not cover everything. Networks seem to be narrowing, making it difficult to find in-network medical care. Health care plans with low monthly rates typically involve huge deductibles. And even for the insured, routine surgeries are often prohibitively expensive. Annual or lifetime limits on health insurance can cause unexpected medical debt too.

How Medical Debt Grows

All it takes is one medical emergency to put an individual in debt. An ambulance ride combined with what the hospital may charge for medical treatment can quickly run into the thousands. Even with insurance, a single out-of-network doctor bill can threaten to devastate your checking account balance. Then there are the costs of tests, procedures, and even medications that may be priced at 10x their normal retail amount. If you are diagnosed with a severe illness such as cancer and you do not have insurance, you are in serious trouble. People are starting charitable drives and GoFundMe accounts just to pay for the medications and treatments required to stay alive.

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Many people slip through the cracks when it comes to programs — often implemented by hospitals and doctors — intended to help those who cannot pay their medical bills. Either they make a little too much money to qualify, extenuating factors cannot be taken into account, or people simply do not know such programs exist. Attempts at negotiating medical bills down or reaching an agreement to pay them off can be extremely complex, with individuals often complaining that it seems like you have to know the secret words in order for your request to be considered.

Debt Collection Stage

There was a time when doctors and medical professionals were reluctant to forward their patients’ bills to debt collector services, but that time has past. Even small medical offices have started selling patient debt, and the debt collection agency usually only receives the amount owed and contact information. Any attempt to try to negotiate your medical debt down can be difficult when it reaches the point that a debt collector has stepped in.

When Bankruptcy Seems like the Only Option

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For many in the US, bankruptcy becomes the only option they can see. And that is a bad solution, because it will stay on your record for 10 years, will affect your ability to purchase a car or rent an apartment, and can even have a negative impact on your ability to find a job. However, even if you do not have enough money to pay off your medical bills, there is hope in the form of negotiation.

Negotiating Your Way Into Manageable Medical Debt

Many hospitals and medical providers will work with you to establish a payment plan you can afford. This requires contacting the billing or accounts receivable office for that establishment and making sure you know what you owe when you call. This also works for treatment you have not received: contact the hospital or medical provider and find out what kind of financial arrangements can be made or if there are any discounts for paying up front. Many times debt collectors can also be negotiated with; you may be able to establish a payment plan or get a part of the debt forgiven if you can pay off a significant piece of it at once. Bankruptcy should be your very last choice.

Conclusion

Because of the high costs of medical care in the United States, people (both insured and uninsured) often find themselves in overwhelming medical debt and turn to bankruptcy as the answer. In fact, medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the US even though it is perhaps the worst solution there is to personal medical debt.

Consumer Medical Bill Services

If your medical bills have caused you to go into debt and you are considering bankruptcy, please contact Consumer Medical Bill Services. Our team specializes in aggressively negotiating your medical debt down by 25% to 45% (sometimes up to 75%) to a more manageable amount. Our process is straightforward: fill out a contact form, talk with a customer service team member, sign some releases, provide us with the documentation of your bills, and let us negotiate a settlement for you. Don’t wait for your bills to get any larger, contact us today!