Welcome back. In our last post, we discussed the situation a 29-year-old Wisconsin woman found herself in after suffering a freak heart attack last year.

The woman had health insurance, but because she was brought by ambulance to a hospital out of her insurance company’s network, the medical treatment she received ended up costing her nearly $100,000 out-of-pocket.

The hospital was willing to lower the amount she owed significantly, but the woman still had to turn to bankruptcy protection because of the medical debt she owed to the hospital and other parties such as private doctors. 

Patient advocates say this is a problem that far too many Americans are finding themselves in. Even when people have health insurance coverage, they can still end up facing astronomical medical bills if they are treated outside of their insurance company’s networks or if the illness or injury is serious enough.

The root of the problem, many advocates say, is hospital over-billing. As an internist from California wrote in a blog post for the Huffington Post last year, “much of what health insurance companies offer now isn’t payment for services, but rather ‘protection’ from over-billing.”

The internist said there has been a nationwide debate going on for years about hospital over-billing, but a solution still appears to be far off. That means Americans will continue to find themselves in over their heads with hospital bills following serious illnesses and injuries, no matter if they have health insurance coverage or not.

Many Americans in this situation — like the Wisconsin woman — find that bankruptcy is the only way to deal with their crippling debt.

Source: UPI.com, “Woman faces bankruptcy after being taken to wrong hospital,” Brooks Hays, Nov. 12, 2014