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Relief from medical debt collectors more important than ever

It is hard to imagine a world where poor individuals can be sued for not having enough money. Sadly, that is the reality that some people must contend with today. Patients in Washington likely already understand the heavy burden that medical bills create, and for some, that burden is only exacerbated by an already stretched wallet. When creditors turn toward the courts to get more money, many people are desperate to find relief from medical debt collectors.

Washington is among one of several states that have particularly high rates of lawsuits filed in an attempt to recover unpaid medical bills. While some might assume that these types of suits are only filed against debtors who not only have tens of thousands in medical bills but also the ability to pay, the poor are the focus of many of these efforts. One review conducted in another state found that many of the lawsuits fell in the $700 or less area. Those affected by garnished paychecks typically earned less than $30,000 annually.

One of the reasons that some states boast higher medical bill related lawsuits comes down to money. The cost to file a lawsuit varies from state to state, and states with the lowest court costs tend to have the highest rates of lawsuits. This translates to higher rates of garnishment, and it is not always for hefty bills. In a 2-year period, one man was subjected to garnishment that totally emptied his bank account 11 different occasions. One of those occasions took the last $6.50 from his account.

When already facing a barrage of harassing collection efforts from creditors, some Washington residents might even begin to consider foregoing necessary medical treatment. It can be very dangerous to a person's health and well-being when he or she is forced to put their family's financial survival above their own health. Sadly, some people simply see no other possible option. However, there is hope and possible relief from medical debt collectors. When a debtor files for bankruptcy, any and all collection efforts against that person are halted until the conclusion of bankruptcy proceedings.

Source: ProPublica, "For Nebraska's Poor, Get Sick and Get Sued", Paul Kiel, April 28, 2016

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