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Patients continue to be overwhelmed by growing medical debt

Medical bills, even those that are anticipated, often pose a significant burden for patients seeking care in Washington. Medical debt can even begin to consume some people's lives as they struggle to repay costly bills while also meeting their basic daily needs. For some, bankruptcy is the best solution.

A 2014 report revealed that nearly 43 million Americans -- roughly 20 percent of adults who have credit records -- have some type of unpaid medical debt. In the past year alone, 26 percent of adults reported that someone in their house had trouble paying back medical debt. Many of the individuals affected by this type of debt are actually covered by health insurance.

The ramifications of even just a single missed payment can be severe. Missing payments makes it much more difficult for patients to catch up on their medical debt, which can ultimately begin to affect other aspects of life, such as credit scores and money left over for groceries. Many people are horrified to discover that medical bills can eventually go over to collections, where they might have to deal with constant, harassing phone calls as creditors attempt to collect money that debtors do not even have.

Medical debt continues to impact a significant percent of the population in Washington and across the rest of the United States. For some, the fact that they already have significant medical bills may actually dissuade them from seeking ongoing or necessary care. While it is true that filing for bankruptcy can also impact a person's credit score, the long-term focus of filing provides opportunities for consumers to start a new financial future.

Source: wiscontext.org, "What To Do When Medical Bills Pile Up", Jeni Appleby and Stephanie Severs, Sept. 22, 2016

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