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Medical debt still an enormous problem for many Americans

Health care reform sought to increase medical coverage while simultaneously reducing costs, but there are some who question just how effective the new health care law has been. An out-of-state study examined medical debt and its ongoing role in bankruptcy filings. The results were perhaps anything but surprising for those who have experienced firsthand just how overwhelming medical bills can be.

Although the study was conducted outside of Washington, the results largely mirror a nationwide 2014 study that listed medical debt as the most common reason behind bankruptcy filings. The more recent study discovered that a community of 356,000 people had accumulated $5.6 million worth of medical debt. That medical debt played a role in nearly 75 percent of a resulting 800 bankruptcies.

The earlier study from 2014 demonstrated that the average American has about three times as much debt from medical bills as they do from the combined debts of credit cards and banking debts. Although this study was largely based on data before the health care reform, it does not appear as though much has changed since then. Indeed, the more recent study not only showed that medical debt still plays a significant role in bankruptcy filings, but that medical businesses and providers constituted the 10 largest creditors in that particular area.

Becoming sick or suffering from a serious disease should not have to be a lifelong financial burden, and yet attempts at reforming the financial side of health care have been far from successful. Many people in Washington find themselves in the unfortunate position of deciding between paying off medical debts or purchasing groceries, a position that can further compromise a person's emotional and physical health. When medical debt becomes a financial burden that a person is no longer able to shoulder, filing for bankruptcy can be an effective choice for handling the issue and bringing an end to harassing calls from creditors.

Source: thelundreport.org, "Medical Bankruptcy Report Shows Problem Continues Despite Health Law", Chris Gray, Dec. 11, 2015

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