New studies show many Americans still struggling with medical debt

The cost of medical care in American has far outpaced inflation for many years. Not surprisingly, medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy, even among Americans who have health insurance.

As of early 2014, a pair of new studies show that while the medical debt load of Americans may be improving, there are still millions struggling to pay medical bills. For these individuals and families, legal solutions like bankruptcy may be the only way to get back on the right track financially after suffering a major medical setback.

Results do not line up exactly, but what is clear is that medical debt is a serious problem

According to the CDC, during the first six months of 2011, 21.7 percent of Americans under the age of 65 were in families that had problems paying medical bills. The first six months of 2012 saw a drop to 20.3 percent. On Apr. 9, 2014, the CDC finished compiling statistics for the first six month of 2013, and found that the medical debt snapshot had improved again: in this report, the percentage of families that were struggling to pay medical bills fell slightly to 19.8 percent.

However, a separate report released by The Kaiser Foundation and Clear Point Credit Counseling Solutions in early 2014 painted a somewhat more troubling portrait of the state of medical debt for Americans. This study found that one in three Americans reported having difficulty paying off medical bills - approximately 13 percent higher than the number from the CDC report.

The difference in the findings likely has to do with differences in the threshold the authors of each of the two different studies set for defining difficulty paying for medical expenses. Regardless of the differences in the numbers, even by the more conservative CDC estimate, one in five Americans having trouble paying for their medical care is a huge swathe of the population.

Bankruptcy may help you eliminate medical bills and other unsecured debt

It is not just the uninsured who struggled with medical bills. High deductibles and lack of coverage can mean even those covered under health plans can easily succumb to medical debt.

Fortunately, medical debt is one of the easier types of debt to eliminate though bankruptcy. Generally, medical debt is unsecured, meaning it is not tied to some physical asset. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most forms of unsecured debt can be discharged in a matter of months for those who qualify. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is geared toward those with a regular income, and after making consolidated payments on debt over a three to five year term, most types of remaining debt are discharged completely (many Chapter 13 filers pay only pennies on the dollar to completely eliminate medical debts).

If you have accumulated burdensome medical debt, bankruptcy might be a good solution. Get in touch with a bankruptcy attorney today to find out more about taking care of medical debt through bankruptcy and to explore whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is best for your individual circumstances.

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