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Medical debt: a singular and sketchy problem for many Americans

In a recent article penned for the New York Times, health care writer Elisabeth Rosenthal notes the slippery slope confronting many people following their receipt of medical care.

Rosenthal contrasts the medical bills that start flooding a mending person’s mailbox in Florida or elsewhere with outlays related to other expenses, such as a credit card payment relating to a defined and discrete expenditure like a computer or television purchase.

With those latter purchases, what you see is what you get. That computer cost you $600, and that is what is now owing.

Conversely, medical bills can be at an embryonic state when they start piling up. Yes, there is a price tag attached, but it is often highly uncertain and needs to be clarified. What is this service? Who rendered it? Is this a cost estimate or actual bill determined following a benefits explanation form from an insurer? Do I need to wait for multiple providers to sort out a billing?

There is peril attached to all of that, because the billing clock can be ticking on a consumer as the weeks and months go by. Ultimately, and through no fault of a good-faith payee, a billing party might turn over an account to a collection agency and/or report it to a credit agency as being in arrears.

The obvious downside: a sliding credit score, the potential for harassment from creditors, more confusion, escalating interest penalties and a diminished ability to secure favorable rates for future purchases.

Medical bills are indeed a scourge for millions of Americans, for whom relief can potentially be obtained through consultation with a proven bankruptcy and debt relief attorney.

Source: New York Times, "When health costs harm your credit," Elisabeth Rosenthal, March 8, 2014

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