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Many Americans burdened by medical debt

Ohio residents who are struggling to pay off medical bills are not alone. A recent study conducted by Georgetown University and the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that one-third of Americans are having difficulty paying down medical debt. The existence of health insurance and differences in income don't seem to be factors, as even those with health coverage still find themselves facing medical expenses.

Given the consequences that carrying a large debt load can have on a consumer's long-term financial situation, experts recommend a few moves to help eliminate or avoid these debts. First, prior to having treatment, it is important to establish what the hospital charges versus what insurance will pay. It may be possible to negotiate with the doctor in order to get cost parity with Medicare, which is generally cheaper than individual rates.

Second, all bills from the hospital should be checked to ensure that the services listed were actually performed. Billing mistakes are a common problem, as revealed in a 2010 study from the Commonwealth Fund. Credit cards should be avoided as a funding option, since the interest rates could be very high, leading to difficulty in paying off the medical debt. Lastly, government services or non-profit debt counselors may be helpful in explaining options and providing solutions for reducing the debt.

When unmanageable debt begins to affect a person's life, whether through creditor harassment or severe financial stress, an attorney may be able to help. The attorney could negotiate for a payment plan on a client's medical bills while determining what other debt relief alternatives may be available.

Source: Your West Valley News, "Study: Medical debt problems afflict 1 in 3 Americans", Lexie Verdon, April 27, 2014

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