The attention given to health reform in this country has focused on providing health care coverage to all Americans. Largely ignored has been the growing problem of people with health care coverage who are struggling with medical debt from expenses that insurance does not cover.


Out-of-pocket medical costs are forcing people to cut back on food and other living expenses in order to be able to pay hospital bills, doctors and medications. One study showed that the average out-of-pocket expenditure for medical care by Medicare beneficiaries was $3,100 in 2007. Ten percent of those on Medicare paid up to $7,800 in medical costs. What is striking about these figures is that half of the people on Medicare have annual incomes of less than $22,000.


People with private insurance do not appear to fare better than do people on Medicare. Patients suffering from chronic illnesses needed financial assistance to help pay medical expenses that insurance did not cover. An unexpected medical condition can quickly create unmanageable debt for people already struggling with medical expenses from previously existing conditions.


Unmanageable debt caused by medical expenses is having an impact on the health care some people are receiving. Patients with health care coverage are delaying or ignoring doctor-recommended medications and treatments because they cannot afford the out-of-pocket expenses. Some patients have added to their problems by charging medical expenses, using high-interest rate credit cards that they are unable to repay.


Individuals struggling with unmanageable debt should consult with a bankruptcy attorney. The attorney might be able to recommend options to help a consumer achieve debt relief. A bankruptcy attorney can explain the eligibility guidelines that apply to Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy to help a consumer decide if filing for bankruptcy is the solution to overwhelming medical debt.


Source: U.S. News & World Report, “High medical bills driving some Americans to extreme measures,” Karen Pallarito, Jan. 18, 2013