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Survey: Insured are not immune to crippling medical debt

It's no secret that medical debt has long been one of the most common causes of financial distress for Americans. In fact, past research has definitively shown that the burden of medical debt was disproportionately borne by those lacking health insurance and that these people were by far the most likely to file for medical bankruptcy.

Fast forward to the present, however, and things appear to be undergoing a seismic shift, as a recently released survey determined that even those with health insurance are no longer immune to the financial troubles that can accompany the accumulation of significant medical debt.

As part of the survey in question, which was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Times, 1,204 adults under the age of 65 who had previously indicated that they experienced problems paying off medical debt over the preceding 12 months were asked a host of questions about their situations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers discovered that 53 percent of the survey respondents indicated that they were lacking health insurance. What was surprising, however, was that nearly 20 percent of these respondents reported having health insurance.

Indeed, breaking the numbers down further, the researchers discovered the following:

  • 63 percent of insured indicated that they had drained all or most of their savings to cover medical bills.
  • 42 percent of insured indicated that they worked more hours or took on additional employment to cover medical bills.
  • 14 percent of insured moved or started living with roommates to help cover medical bills.
  • 11 percent of insured sought help from charitable organizations to help cover medical bills.  

The question that naturally arises after reading these findings is how this is possible, particularly in light of the fact that an estimated 15 million people now have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

According to experts, the problem is largely twofold. First, the cost of medical care in the U.S. continues to skyrocket and, second, more insurance providers are now looking to help offset their expenses through increased cost sharing, meaning higher deductibles, more co-payments and smaller networks. This, of course, translates into higher costs and more out-of-pocket expenses for the average consumer that can rapidly add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars in debt.

As discouraging as this may be, it's nevertheless important for those who find themselves in this difficult situation to understand that they may be able to eliminate their medical debt and secure a fresh financial start via personal bankruptcy. To learn more, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional. 

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