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Is medical debt taking a toll on Washington residents?

New information compiled from patients throughout America shows that one of the biggest stresses on family budgets is not credit card debt or even housing expenses, as many may believe. The mounting pressure on many families is the ever-growing problem of medical debt. Families across Washington and in other states may be finding that they, too, are becoming ill from the costs of getting sick.

According to two separate foundations, the Kaiser Family and the Patient Advocate, families are struggling with the increasingly high costs of medical care, especially in the areas where that care is proportionately higher. A study of the costs for some services reveals that there can be a wide range in what hospitals and other providers charge for the same treatments. For instance, a treatment for a sprain can be under $5 or over $24,000. This, in turn, underscores the inconsistencies that seem to plague the healthcare system overall, often resulting in the patient left holding the bag in the form of a bill.

The worst part of the cost of medical care may be the fact that no one can foresee or plan for an unexpected diagnosis of a serious disease, illness or a life-changing accident. According to recent figures, up to one-third of Americans may be trying to cope with the insurmountable burden of high medical costs. What's more, many of those attempting to pay for necessary care actually do have medical insurance. This suggests that not just the uninsured are attempting to cope with the spiraling cost of medical care.

With the rising costs of daily living taking a bigger bite out of family budgets, the wild-card of unexpected medical debt may be the straw that broke the camel's back. Washington families that are already struggling to make ends meet may find the added burden of medical bills to be outside of their ability to pay, no matter how hard they try. There are resources available to provide information regarding how a bankruptcy filing may enable these families to relieve the burden of medical debt. In doing so, they can work to regain their financial health while also focused on restoring the physical well-being of their family.

Source: rollcall.com, "Medical Debt: The New Norm for Patients in America", Nancy Davenport-Ennis, April 30, 2014

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