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Medical debt is the top cause of bankruptcy

Wisconsin residents may be aware that medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. According to a recent study by NerdWallet Health that used data from multiple sources that included the U.S. Census and the Centers for Disease Control, a total of 1.7 million people will declare personal bankruptcy this year because of debts related to medical expenses, accounting for about 60 percent of all bankruptcy filings. An estimated 56 million people will struggle with medical payments, 15 million people will empty their savings accounts to pay off medical debt, 11 million will use credit cards to pay and 10 million will have problems paying for basic necessities because of medical bills. The use of credit cards to pay for medical bills often accelerates the accumulation of debt because of their relatively high interest rates.

Families can be totally overwhelmed with bills when a person suddenly falls ill or sustains serious injuries in an accident. Some 25 million people even skip taking prescribed medications to keep medical costs under control. This can actually cause more health problems and greater expense in the future as failure to take prescribed medications could result in costly emergency room visits or a worsened condition, for example.

Even people with insurance have problems paying medical bills because high deductible plans mean big out-of-pocket expenses for people with average income. An estimated 10 million people with insurance will still owe on deductibles by the end of the year.

The statistics suggest that thousands of people in Wisconsin are experiencing extreme financial distress. For most, the hardships are due to no fault of their own. Bankruptcy lawyers can sometimes help these people explore options and ways to get their financial lives back on track.

Source: NBC News, "Biggest cause of personal bankruptcy: Medical bills", Dan Mangan, June 25, 2013

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