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Unexpected medical debt despite hospital aid programs

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more than half of all consumer debt is attributable to medical bills. Even when Ohio patients are indigent and qualify for a hospital aid program, they may still be held liable to pay for such things as anesthesiology that was contracted to a private physician's group by the hospital.

Several Ohio hospitals, including Mount Carmel East and Mount Carmel St. Ann's, contract with a private business called Consultant Anesthesiologists to provide anesthesia to patients receiving care. Unlike other provided services, privately contracted anesthesia is not eligible to be paid through the nonprofit hospitals' indigent care funds. People are then often sidelined by huge and unexpected bills for care that they needed.

Consultant Anesthesiologists often sues its patients through its third-party collector, Credit Adjustment, Inc. In 2014 alone, the business sued at least 103 patients in court to collect around $180,000 in medical debt. Many judgments were obtained by default, leaving people to then face garnishment of their wages for bills that were both unexpected and that they are unable to pay.

Medical debt can cause a vicious financial cycle leading to judgments and garnishments. When people are facing unmanageable debts, they should reach out to collectors and attempt to negotiate a settlement. In the event that is not possible, people in such situations may want to consider filing for bankruptcy. As unsecured debts, medical debts are able to be discharged through bankruptcy. Even if a lawsuit has already been filed, a stay will be issued preventing the lawsuit from proceeding as well as the collector from taking any further action against the debtor.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Hospital aid policies can't rule out medical bills", Ben Sutherly, Jan. 25, 2015

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