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Is high medical debt the main source of personal bankruptcy?

The most common type of debt that people seem to be trapped under involves home loans and credit card debt, but medical debt issue is a significantly growing concern. According to a recent survey, 1.7 million people in New Jersey and across the United States filed for personal bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills in 2013. During the recession, many people earned less while the cost of healthcare steadily increased.

Part of the medical debt issue can be attributed to billing errors. As part of the survey, respondents noted that the bills they received were all higher than they had projected. An analysis completed by Medicare Compliance Reviews for 2013 found that nearly half of the claims that were audited had errors and that none of the hospitals were in complete compliance. The prices for services vary by region and by hospital. Hospitals in New Jersey and California reportedly have the highest prices.

With all of these obstacles, how can someone reduce their chances of being trapped in medical debt? Many of those surveyed stated that they would make better decisions if they were better informed about the cost of services and procedures. A patient advocate said that one of the best pieces of advice is to put the insurance on the person's side to help reduce costs. The insurance companies may also be able to work with a patient to try to negotiate out-of-network to see specialists.

Just like most things, a patient can shop to get a better deal and then use lower priced options to possibly negotiate the price. After a bill is received, a New Jersey resident can look for mistakes, and if any errors are found, the claim can be appealed. Despite checking for errors and price comparison, consumers do have a solution if the cost of the medical debt is too high. Filing for personal bankruptcy protection can be a responsible way in many of these circumstances to allow someone overwhelmed by medical bills to start over again with a clean financial slate.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Here's Why Medical Debt Is Crippling Millions of Americans, and What You Can Do About It", Napala Pratini, Oct. 9, 2014

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