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When Bad Things Happen to Good People ...

Bankruptcy May Be Your Option

Do bills for medical care pay for recovery or lead to bankruptcy?

Hardly anyone can say that he or she has not owed debt for health care at some point. Even those with good insurance coverage are likely to owe deductibles. And most of those people cannot deny some confusion about who is billing them for what particular medical service they had, especially when the treatment involved a hospital stay.

So what happens when medical bills go unpaid, whether due to the inability to pay or a misunderstanding about whether a bill has already been paid to another provider?

According to recent statistics, almost 43 million people in the U.S. have unpaid medical debts. Those numbers are based on a report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Partly due to the reported confusion that health care consumers have about what debt they owe to whom, the CFPB will now require the credit agencies to report to the Bureau about the procedures they use to investigate disputed charges and respond to consumers about them.

In a recent speech given in Oklahoma City, the director of the CFPB called the influx of medical bills after treatment for an injury or illness a "financial maze."

One hospital stay can yield separate bills from the hospital, the physician charged with overseeing the treatment, the hospital pharmacy for drugs administered, the radiologist if x-rays were taken, and a myriad of other providers depending on the treatment. This leads to confusion about who to pay, how much is owed to each provider, and the due date for each bill.

Over half of all debt on credit reports originates with health care services. And someone who recently underwent extensive medical treatment may also be behind on other bills due to an inability to work during the illness. So the medical debt becomes a financial tumbleweed, picking up more financial problems as it continues on.

If you have incurred medical debt that you cannot pay, or if you are confused about the origin of different bills you receive, a consultation with an attorney who can help with debt relief may be a good resource for you.

Whether your situation will require filing for bankruptcy to eliminate debt or just working out a repayment plan, having an experienced attorney in your corner can help you recover from financial challenges as you continue to recover from the medical challenges that created the debt.

Source: The Seattle Times, "42.9 million Americans have unpaid medical bills," Josh Boak, Dec. 1, 2014

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