When people talk about filing for bankruptcy, most imagine financial irresponsibility as a leading cause. There is a pervasive and damaging myth that filers are bad with money, have poor spending habits, and are not willing to work for the things they want to buy, choosing to use credit cards instead.
This is actually not true for the vast majority of Americans filing. In 2019, it was found that 66.5% of all bankruptcy filings were related to excessive medical debt, not overspending or reliance on credit cards. Even people with health insurance coverage find themselves in this predicament when diagnosed with a serious or long-term illness. And for others who have lost their jobs, it may be impossible to afford health insurance coverage on their own.
Excessive pricing is a major issue within the medical industry
Medical providers often price the treatments they provide excessively, which is acceptable to a certain degree within the industry. This excessive pricing can raise the stakes for people without insurance, or those who lack the sufficient amount of coverage for the ailment being treated. As a result, the bills add up quickly, while the patient may feel there is no real recourse for them.
Much like when making other purchases, be it a vehicle or appliance, you have the right to shop around for the medical care you receive. Unfortunately, many patients do not do this because they may not be aware that it is an option at all. However, you might be surprised by the disparity in prices when it comes to medical procedures, disparities that have no real basis when it comes to the quality of the care you receive.
Patients must be proactive when it comes to their medical bills
In addition to shopping around for a procedure or treatment, you can also take steps to mitigate your medical debt after you are billed. Reviewing the bill ensures you understand what you were charged for and why. If you have questions about the nature of the charges themselves, reach out to your insurer or the clinic immediately. Make note of the information you are provided, as well as the date and time when the conversation occurred. If you have disputes, follow up as soon as you discover them.
If you are unable to pay, ask if you are able to set up a payment plan. Most providers are willing to do so, which ensures you can pay down your debt reasonably without impacting your financial stability. If your bills are too steep and you cannot afford a payment plan, or the clinic or insurer is unwilling to work with you, bankruptcy may be your best option to stop further financial fallout from affecting you.