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Medical debt continues to plague U.S. families

Some commentators like to paint bankruptcy as some moral fault, stemming from a person's desire to shirk their responsibilities. However, the reason people file for bankruptcy in the United States is often the result of more complex factors, outside the control of the consumer. In fact, one of the main reasons people file for bankruptcy in the United States is the result of medical bills, associated with sudden, unexpected conditions.

According to a government survey, released by the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four families living in the United States were struggling to pay their medical bills in 2012. One in 10 of those surveyed added that they had at least some costs that they could not pay at all. Further, for many, a lack of insurance increased the burden of the medical debt.

In recent years, many experts have pointed out that unpaid medical bills and excessive medical debt, due to unexpected medical conditions, is the number one reason that many families in the end up filing for bankruptcy. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, medical debt can result in people losing the equity in their family home, threaten a family's retirement and education savings and destroy a family financially.

Medical debt is a serious issue with serious consequences. While more and more Americans are obtaining healthcare coverage, which should lessen the burden, healthcare coverage alone is not the answer. From out of pocket expenses, such as deductibles, to uncovered conditions or treatment, even with insurance, it is possible to get behind. When this happens, it might be time to speak with a debt relief professional.

Source: Bloomberg, "One in Four U.S. Families Struggles to Pay Medical Bills," Caroline Chen, Jan. 27, 2014

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