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Health care system can lead to unmanageable medical debt

The medical bill debt crisis faced by many Americans is a growing problem with no relief in sight, including here in Arkansas. Consumer bankruptcy filers often cite medical debt as their primary problem. There are generally two types of patients having trouble with medical debt: those who are insured and those who are uninsured.

That may seem like an unlikely association, but the crisis is in fact fueled by our complicated and unwieldy insurance system. For one thing, with so many hundreds of insurance companies and insurance plans out there, even those who can afford coverage, or who can qualify for Medicaid, are playing roulette on a table arranged by insurers. These insurers have a way of declaring without warning that certain procedures and services are not covered.

In addition, agreeing to large deductibles is the only way that some people can afford to sign up for a policy. Government tax credits, if they come, do not prevent the quick ruination of a family's credit record when partially uninsured, crippling bills are delivered to unwary consumers. In addition, the variety of plans and coverages leads to uneven treatment where one patient may be covered and another buried with debt.

Our system has no mechanism that steps in to save the financial integrity of a family battling a member's cancer or other fatal disease. Those families are left to wallow in a rising sea of medical debt. One source of all of these critical problems is the incomparably crushing cost of medical services and medication in the United States.

A family struggling with unforeseeable medical debt in Arkansas has no protection from creditor harassment and lawsuits. Thankfully, the federal government does provide a remedy: a single individual or a married couple may, if qualified, file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and wipe out all medical and credit card debt quickly and permanently. Yes, there are downsides to this remedy but they are limited in scope and actual duration, in comparison to the powerful benefits. To find out the details, consumers should seek a consultation with an experienced consumer bankruptcy attorney.

Source: orlandosentinel.com, "Kassab: Hospital good deed also highlights need for better system", Beth Kassab, Aug. 27, 2016

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