Consumer medical debt still driving bankruptcy filings

Medical debt - and medical debt collection - are both billion-dollar industries in America. Our healthcare system, such as it is, means that millions and millions of us have insurance coverage, yet costs of medications, treatments and physician visits still put countless of Americans in debt annually.

Past studies have shown that medical expenses are a driving force behind a majority of personal bankruptcy filings each year. Despite improvements in the accessibility to and quality of care, costs still prove difficult for many, particularly when it comes to out-of-network and balance billing.

Medical costs add up quickly

Many plans, even those offered by large employers, have tight restrictions on which providers, hospitals, clinics, services and support staff are in-network, and which would be covered at a much higher out-of-network cost. This can leave patients, particularly those dealing with an emergency situation, reeling financially afterwards, shocked by huge bills they are simply unable to cover.

Other medical costs that might lead to financial woes include:

  • Emergency room or urgent care visits later deemed "unnecessary" by the insurance company
  • Specialists like radiologists, anesthesiologists, surgeons and more not in the patient's network
  • Specialty services and equipment - some policies will cover the costs of individual physicians, but not related services like, for example medical equipment following a knee replacement, for example
  • Brand name but life-saving medications - the retail price of everything from insulin to EpiPens and chemotherapy to cardiac medicine has increased exponentially in recent years; some patients have to choose between getting their medications and buying groceries or paying the mortgage
  • Lack of plan/policy coverage for mental health or substance abuse treatment
  • Inability to determine costs from providers ahead of treatment
  • Inability for patients to figure out if out-of-network providers (like anesthesiologists, for example, who the hospital may contract with) will be present for an in-network planned procedure; this can lead to so-called "balance billing," which leaves the patient in a bind

If your medical debt is out of control, you may need to consider a bankruptcy filing. Contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney in your area to find out if bankruptcy will work for you to get a fresh financial start.

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