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Is medical debt still an issue in the U.S.?

A major medical diagnosis can lead to many questions and a lot of worries. Most people in Chattanooga who face a major medical diagnosis want to know what treatments are available and whether they will regain their health. What they may also worry about is how to afford the medical care they will need. Even those with health insurance may still find themselves paying for out-of-pocket expenses in the form of high deductibles, co-pays, prescriptions and procedures and tests not covered by insurance. Unfortunately, this leads to ever-increasing medical debt.

For example, in 2015 the average amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses Americans paid was $1,300. Nationwide, in 2014, the total amount that Americans were paying in out-of-pocket medical expenses reached $416 billion. In 2008, that number was only $277 billion. Projections show that the total amount that Americans will pay in out-of-pocket medical expenses by 2019 could be as high as $608 billion.

What does all this mean? It means that in 2014, 64 million individuals in the United States were burdened with some amount of medical debt. In fact, medical debt was the number one cause of bankruptcy in the nation, accounting in 2007 for 62 percent of bankruptcy filings.

The Affordable Care Act gave more individuals in the United States the opportunity to obtain health insurance. However, even with health insurance, it is still all too easy to rack up medical debt. According to one recent survey, 26 percent of respondents stated they were having issues paying for their medical expenses. And regardless of whether they were insured, 44 percent of respondents who had medical debt stated that their debt had a "major impact" on them and their families. One-third reported having difficulties paying for the basic necessities of life due to their medical expenses.

Moreover, another survey reported that many individuals were paying for their medical expenses with credit cards, leading to an increase in credit card debt. In 2012, households with medical debt had an average of $8,762 in credit card debt, whereas households in which medical expenses were not put on a credit card had on average only $5,154 in credit card debt.

Too many people still struggle with medical debt. Filing for bankruptcy may be an option for some. To learn more about how bankruptcy can address your medical debt, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney.

Source: Demos, "Enough To Make You Sick: The Burden Of Medical Debt," Sean McElwee, Aug. 15, 2016

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Kenneth C. Rannick, P.C.
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Chattanooga, TN 37411

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