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An emergency room visit can put you in serious medical debt

Even people with good health insurance who are diligent about choosing doctors in their network can find themselves with significant medical bills. All it takes is one unexpected visit to an emergency room.

Most of us don't plan our emergency room visits. One minute, we're living our lives and the next minute we're hit by a car, knocked unconscious by a rogue baseball or slam our head on a slippery surface. We wake up in the hospital happy to be alive and well. The last thing we're thinking about is the medial bills -- until we get them.

Even if you go to an emergency room in a hospital that is within your network, that doesn't mean that all of the doctors who attend to you are in network. Many people assume that it does, but that's not necessarily the case. A recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that almost a quarter of in-network emergency room visits involve out-of-network physicians.

Many people who are healthy choose high-deductible plans to minimize their monthly payments, but provide for some type of reimbursement if the unexpected happens. That can still leave them with thousands of dollars in hospital and ambulance bills in addition to at least hundreds of dollars in out-of-network doctor bills. As one person noted, "That's a house payment. It's rent. It's food for a month or two for some people."

With the new Trump administration taking office in January, the future of health care coverage is more uncertain than it's been in a long time. Even people who are fortunate enough to have health insurance coverage through their employers can't always predict what their medical bills will be.

You may be able to negotiate directly with your provider(s) to get your bills down to something you can afford to pay off. If you aren't able to do that, an Arizona bankruptcy attorney can provide guidance to help you deal with unexpected medical debt.

Source: NBC News, "Surprise Medical Bills Found in 22 Percent of ER Visits," Maggie Fox and Jane Derenowski, Nov. 16, 2016

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