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Medical debt focus: a slippery slope for millions

When it comes to unsecured debt, medical bills loom large and prominent for their ability to turn people’s lives upside down.

Many Arkansas residents join millions of individuals and families from across the country in knowing that at a deeply personal level.

Many people have a commonly shared and flatly disconcerting -- if not panic-inducing -- experience regarding medical care, namely this: Notwithstanding that only one provider seemingly rendered care in a certain instance, multiple bills from unknown clinics and specialists continue to plug the mailbox in subsequent weeks and months.

In the best case, and for people with comparatively impressive insurance policies, that can simply be annoying and ultimately cost a few extra bucks beyond what was envisioned to be paid. In the worst case, though, it can lead to tremendous fear and desperation, necessitating a dire need for debt relief. In fact, and as noted by a media article on medical debt, such debt “is a major factor in the filing of consumer bankruptcies.”

A point that is centrally made in that article stresses a most direct imperative that is imposed on any insured person about to receive care in a non-emergency situation that he or she can reasonably anticipate and prepare for.

The admonition: Educate yourself before submitting to care.

Yes, that can be a daunting task, given the complexities often associated with co-pays, deductibles, network-related considerations, out-of-pocket payments and other matters.

Failure to know the basics about a plan, though, can result in a far more daunting outcome. Advice to medical consumers typically stresses the need to call in to an insurer whenever there is uncertainty about coverage and cost questions. Prospective patients also need to be proactive and even aggressive about getting pre-treatment answers to questions from care providers and billing offices.

If medical costs ultimately overwhelm a consumer and cannot be reasonably negotiated, advice can be solicited from a proven debt relief attorney. It is invaluable for many people to know that out-of-control medical costs can frequently be addressed through bankruptcy, given that unsecured debt is commonly dischargeable through a Chapter 7 filing.

Source: Dallas Morning News, "These steps can help keep your medical bills from getting out of hand," Pamela Yip, June 27, 2014

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