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Medical debt a problem even for those with health insurance

The number of people in America living with crushing medical debt is staggering, with recent estimates putting 42 percent of individuals spending most or all of their personal savings on medical expenses. Experts point out that people in Washington tend to have financing options for many other areas in their lives, but that is not the case for medical debt. Bills related to medical care tend to create a much larger burden on consumers.

A lack of health insurance tends to get blamed for tremendous amounts of medical debt, but that sentiment is not necessarily accurate. A survey in another state uncovered that 76 percent of its residents who had recently experienced significant financial problems all had some form of health insurance. A different poll performed by NPR and other foundations discovered that having health insurance does not actually provide a safeguard against experiencing financial hardship.

An 85-year-old woman discovered this after she moved to Florida, although people all across the country can likely relate to her experience. She transferred her chronic lung care to specialists in the area after she moved to live near her daughter. Soon after she was slammed with medical bills and discovered that her insurance was not accepted by one of her specialists. After she burned through her small savings, she had nothing with which to pay. The medical bills were exacerbated by a cardiac procedure she needed soon after moving.

Having health insurance does not create a wall through which medical bills are unable to pass. Significant medical emergencies or even accidentally seeing an out-of-network provider can create a financially devastating environment for people in Washington who are simply trying to receive necessary medical care. When medical debt becomes insurmountable and day-to-day expenses are impossible to meet, it can be appropriate to consider the possible benefits of filing for bankruptcy.

Source: NPR, "Medical Debt Rains Pain On Families, Even In the Sunshine State", March 17, 2016

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