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Why medical debt leads to financial disaster for many Americans

Anyone who's had a visit to the hospital or an emergency room can testify that the cost can be shocking -- even if they have insurance. When people don't have adequate savings to cover these unexpected medical costs, the financial ramifications can be serious.

It shouldn't be surprising that medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. According to a report by The New York Times, one-fifth of Americans under Medicare-qualifying age reported that they had experienced difficulty paying medical bills within the last year.

Nearly two-thirds of those said that they had gone through most of their savings to pay their medical bills. Over 40 percent even said that they got a second job to pay off their medical debt.

No matter how healthy you are, a nasty fall, burst appendix or sudden case of pneumonia can send you to the hospital. Ambulance, hospital, doctor and anesthesiologist costs add up quickly.

Having some money put away "for a rainy day" can help. However, a survey by GoBankingRates found that nearly 70 percent of Americans have under $1,000 saved, and over one-third have no money put away at all. It's difficult for many Americans who are struggling just to survive from paycheck to paycheck to think about putting money away for emergencies.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by medical bills, there are steps you can take to negotiate with your providers to get them to accept the amount your insurance has paid and not seek additional payment from you. You may also be able to arrange a payment plan with them that will avoid having your debt sent to a collection agency, which would negatively impact your credit rating.

A Quinn Law Firm bankruptcy attorney can provide guidance on the best way to handle overwhelming medical bills.

Source: USA Today, "This is the No. 1 reason Americans file for bankruptcy," Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool, May 05, 2017

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