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Even people with health insurance can accumulate medical debt

Even with the Affordable Care Act, which has given many Americans access to health insurance for the first time, a significant number of people in this country still aren't insured. For them, one injury or illness in the family can be financially devastating. In a recent study, over half of uninsured working-age people reported having difficulty paying their medical bills.

Even with health insurance, many people still find themselves with substantial bills for cancer and other treatments, surgery, hospital stays and prescription drugs. Of the more than 2,500 people surveyed last year by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of those with health insurance said they had trouble covering their health care costs. Thirteen percent reported owing at least $10,000.

A nearly identical number of insured and uninsured people reported that their medical costs had a significant impact on their family finances-- in some cases making it difficult to pay for necessities like food, housing and utilities.

For those with insurance, almost a third said they paid considerable out-of-pocket costs because they used a provider not in their insurance network. Approximately a quarter said that they experienced problems paying their bills after their claims were denied by their insurer. Those with higher deductibles, not surprisingly, were more likely to report problems paying their bills.

People reported dealing with these medical costs in a number of different ways, including:
-- Paying with their credit cards (thus driving up their credit card debt)
-- Working overtime or getting a second job
-- Cutting back on other expenses
--Asking family or friends for help
-- Forgoing other types of health care, including not filling prescriptions
-- Seeking help from a charity

In some cases, if you're unable to pay your medical bills in full, providers may be willing to negotiate down a price. However, two-thirds of those surveyed who tried that said they were unable to do so.

For people who feel like they're drowning in medical debt, it's essential to know that you aren't alone. Many people are in the same boat. An experienced Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney can provide advice on what your best options are for dealing with that debt so that it doesn't take over your life.

Source: Becker's Hospital Review, "Half of uninsured people face problems with their medical bills: 9 survey findings," Kelly Gooch, Aug. 23, 2016

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