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Medical debt isn't just a problem for uninsured Americans

Many people who experience overwhelming medical debt feel alone. However, that's far from the truth. With the costs of health care, drugs and medical devices continuing to rise, more Americans than ever are having problems dealing with their medical bills on top of all of their other financial obligations, even for those with health insurance.

According to a study by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of working-age people with insurance in the United States reported having problems paying their medical bills.

Even for people with insurance, coverage decisions can impact how much debt you assume. Those who have higher deductibles are more likely to report problems paying their medical bills than people with lower deductibles (26 percent and 15 percent, respectively).

While we can't always control our health care costs, if possible, it's a good idea to first make sure that a procedure or treatment is covered by your insurance. Then, determine what the difference is in reimbursement between in-network and out-of-network care. Over a quarter of people who have reported difficulty paying their medical bills, cited unexpected denials of their claims as the reason for their delinquencies. Nearly one third said they'd gone to an out-of-network provider.

Concerns about how to pay for medical treatment impact the care that many Americans receive. Over a quarter of respondents to the Kaiser/New York Times survey reported either not seeking treatment, skipping a follow-up appointment or not having a medical test out of concern for the cost.

Unfortunately, the choices that many people make to pay off their medical debts aren't fiscally wise. Over 30 percent of insured people reported using money from college, retirement or other long-term savings accounts to pay their medical bills. If you're feeling overwhelmed by medical debt, it may be wise to seek both legal and financial advice in order to help you make wise decisions about how to better manage it.

Source: Becker's Hospital CFO, "10 statistics and findings on medical debt," Kelly Gooch, Aug. 31, 2016

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