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How to avoid overwhelming medical debt

Even though more Americans than ever have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act (widely known as "Obamacare," a serious illness or injury can still put people in serious medical debt simply from the co-pays and portion of their medical bills not covered by their insurance.

Unless you are required to undergo emergency surgery, there are ways that people can help reduce their medical bills. This could be particularly vital information to have with the future of the ACA unknown at this point under the next administration.

Know the cost of a procedure or treatment before you undergo it. You may be able to shop around and get the same procedure from qualified professionals elsewhere.

-- Find out how much your health insurance will cover before you undergo a treatment or procedure. Insurers will cover a greater percentage if you go to an in-network provider. The same is true for pharmacies, which you may use for medications before or after your treatment.

-- Review your medical bills carefully. Often they're long and detailed and seem to be written in another language. However, if you see something listed on there that you don't understand, call the provider and ask questions. Further, if your insurer didn't pay what you believe they should have, call them. One consumer health care expert says that people in the U.S. "pay an estimated $58 billion per year that they shouldn't have paid and didn't owe."

You can help prepare for unexpected medical bills by opening a Health Savings Account through your employer. An HSA lets you put away tax-deferred money for health-related expenses. It's also important to have an emergency fund for any sort of unexpected expenses.

If you're burdened by more medical debt than you can handle and are unable to negotiate it down with your providers, you may want to seek the advice of an Arizona attorney. He or she can provide you with some options for dealing with the debt so that it doesn't damage your financial future.

Source: Forbes, "7 Ways To Avoid Or Reduce Medical Debt," Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, Next Avenue, Nov. 07, 2016

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