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Medical debt: equal opportunity scourge for millions of Americans

In a recent study carried out by a nonprofit organization focused on health care topics and reform, medical debt comes across as akin to a disease that can strike Americans across a broad spectrum, regardless of job position and economic status.

That is, spiraling health care costs make virtually all Americans, except for the very rich, vulnerable to onerous medical bills and troubling levels of debt.

In fact, note study authors of research carried out under the aegis of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “most people who experience difficulty paying medical bills have health insurance.”

That is indeed sobering, and a conclusion that soundly belies the commonly held belief that persons saddled by medical debt are, in most instances, uninsured.

The study found that there is no prototypical example of an individual or family facing insuperable medical bills, whether in Florida or anywhere else. Rather, those strapped by medical costs encompass individuals and families of all types; have annual incomes ranging from only a few thousand dollars to six figures; live in states across the country; and run the gamut of having comprehensive medical plans to no insurance at all.

Out-of-pocket costs and deductibles quickly eat up savings or put a hole in budgets where no savings ever did exist. In noting this, study authors point out that medical debt can result in adverse financial consequences across a broad spectrum. Those can ensue from such debt making it difficult to pay rent or a mortgage, to stay timely on credit card obligations or even to pay for basic requirements.

The Kaiser study notes that high medical bills often lead to bankruptcy.

That is not always a bad thing. In fact, bankruptcy can allow many strapped individuals and families to shed themselves of exorbitant medical costs, which are dischargeable in bankruptcy.

That can result in a fresh start and a much brighter future.

Source: Albuquerque Business First, "The many faces of  medical debt," Dennis Domrzalski, Jan. 13, 2014

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