When medical debt rears its ugly head, what emerges as immediately notable are the disturbing numbers associated with it.
Here are just a few. Statistics supplied by the national health policy group Kaiser Family Foundation indicate that more than 30 percent of all Americans say they have medical debt and are finding it difficult to pay. The foundation additionally reports that a staggering 28 million people have depleted their savings trying to settle their payment obligations, and an estimated 21 million people across the country have had to turn to their credit cards to make medical payments.
Some readers in New Jersey and elsewhere might reasonably think that high medical bills represent unduly stiff challenges only for the truly poor and, particularly, for those who lack insurance.
According to the Patient Advocate Foundation, a national nonprofit group that works on behalf of patients to improve access to quality care, those with that viewpoint would be wrong: PAF founder Nancy Davenport-Ennis says that more than two-thirds of all the patients that approach the foundation for assistance are, in fact, insured.
A takeaway from that is this: Even health insurance doesn’t do much to insulate many New Jersey residents and other Americans from incurring debt following their receipt of medical care.
Davenport-Ennis recommends a number of reforms driven by recognition that medical debt is distinctly different from other types of consumer debt.
That is, people don’t have a real choice regarding whether they should accrue such debt or not. When faced with serious illness or disease, treatment is not a voluntary option.
Many people might not know that medical debt is dischargeable under bankruptcy law. An experienced debt relief attorney can provide information concerning the process and help an individual or family regain solid financial footing.
Filing for bankruptcy is a legal right, and a bankruptcy attorney can help a client seeking debt elimination to exercise that right.
Source: Roll Call, “Medical debt: the new norm for patients in America / Commentary,” Nancy Davenport-Ennis, April 30, 2014