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New initiatives aim to keep medical accounts out of collections

Those in Summit who pride themselves on avoiding debt may just be surprised to learn exactly which type of debt is the most prevalent in the United States. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, medical debt has recently surpassed all other types of debt as the most common amongst American consumers, with nearly $322 billion in out-of-pocket expenses seen in 2013. No one can avoid going to the doctor or hospital forever, and as anyone who has ever had to deal with significant medical expenses can attest to, these debts and quickly go from manageable to overwhelming.

A common complaint amongst patients is that even though they know to anticipate medical bills following services received, they often don’t see any follow-up done on their claims until they’re sent to a collection agency. The Federal Reserve estimates that over half of all accounts in collection are outstanding medical bills, to which fees have been assessed as well high interest rates imposed once they’re turned over for collection. While the initial expense associated with the hospital visit may be a manageable expense for the patient, the extra fees they’re required to pay to a collection agency often make resolving such a debt much more difficult.

Help is on the way to assist in avoiding these unnecessary extra expenses in the future. The Healthcare Financial Management Association has taken on the task of better defining best practices for providers when it comes to resolving their medical accounts. Among those include offering charity care to uninsured patients or creating payment plans based on a patient’s current economic situation.

Resolving overwhelming medical debt is rarely easy. Thus, any initiatives aimed at helping provide relief to patients in managing their medical expenses are welcome news. Should one’s medical debt still be beyond his or her capacity to pay, other options such as filing for bankruptcy may have need to be considered. A bankruptcy attorney may be useful source of information and advice for those faced with this decision.

Source: Fox Business “How Long Does it Take for a Medical Debt to Go to Collections?” Jan. 15, 2014 

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