At the start of this year, we highlighted how medical debt can be a problem for people in Arkansas and elsewhere. Health insurance is supposed to help prevent this, but a survey of patients who had insurance showed that many of them had still drained their savings, worked a lot of overtime, moved in with others or sought charity in the struggle to meet their medical bills.

There are avenues available for individuals to get the relief they need to get themselves onto an even keel. Options can include filing for bankruptcy to erase unsecured debt. The thought of it might be frightening, but by consulting with an experienced debt relief attorney it is possible to alleviate concerns about what steps you can take to get your head above water.

Of course, there are things that health insurers could do to minimize the risk of such problems. One of them, which you would think is only a matter of good business, is to keep their directories of participating practitioners up to date. Unfortunately, research suggests it’s not happening. What that can mean for some patients is a massive, unexpected bill for services provided by an out-of-network doctor.

For example, there is a health plan in Florida that leaves consumers in a lurch if they’re looking for an anesthesiologist. They might go into a hospital that is a network facility for some procedure and expect that everything to be covered as a result. They may only learn later that the anesthesiologist wasn’t in-network. That message arrives in concert with a bill of thousands of dollars.

Sometimes, a doctor may be listed in a network as taking new patients. However, in some cases they may charge extra and expensive “concierge” fees – something the directory might not reveal.

Many experts agree that the issue of flawed directories is a big one and costs consumers money and access to good health care. New rules requiring annual directory updates are in place but don’t seem to be having much effect. Insurers commonly resort to the fallback position that individual patients are ultimately responsible themselves for making sure their doctor or desired service is covered.

In other words, you have to look out for number one.