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Options when dealing with medical debt

As Pennsylvania residents may know, medical debt may financially burden a family, causing them hardship, and the process of recovering from such financial setbacks may be difficult. In 2012, medical debt affected more than 25 percent of families, and families with children were at higher risk of medical debt.

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of all families with children reported medical debt; 12.1 percent reported they were not able to pay medical bills, and 21.8 percent reported problems with paying. Those most adversely affected were families who earned less that 250 percent of the federal poverty level and those who had an uninsured family member. Of households containing two or more adults who experienced problems with medical bills, 7.7 percent reported that they were unable to make payments, and 14.7 percent reported problems paying.

The difference in money owed for medical bills showed the largest increase in those families who were uninsured. In 2012, 39.7 percent of uninsured families reported medical debt compared to 46 percent of families with some uninsured members. Although 29.8 percent of all families are paying on medical debt, 33.9 percent either experienced problems paying their medical debt or were unable to pay.

Medical debt may result in an individual's inability to control finances and may place such a burden on a family that debt seems out of control. In such situations, debt relief may be gained through mediation with medical institutions. An attorney's guidance throughout this process may be beneficial. An attorney may also review a family's situation and provide insight into filing bankruptcy to discharge some debts.

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