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CDC: 1 in 4 households struggles with medical debt

Arizona families feeling overwhelmed by expensive medical bills aren't alone, according to data from a 2012 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intended to shed light on the sheer number of families in America facing difficulties with paying for their medical care. The data, compiled in a report released in 2014, suggests that more than 25 percent of U.S. households struggle with overwhelming medical debt.

Medical bills and credit score changes

Arizona families struggling with medical debt may be relieved to know that FICO will be changing the weight of medical debt in the determination of one's credit score. An estimated one-third of Americans deal with difficulties in paying medical debts, and this is also the leading reason for bankruptcy filings in the nation. It is reported that approximately 64 million individuals have medical bills in collections listed on their credit reports.

Can medical debt affect credit worthiness?

Some Arizona residents may have experience dealing with different forms of medical debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently published research indicates that having medical debt may inadvertently cause lenders to underestimate someone's credit worthiness. Another study performed by the Federal Reserve Board is said to have found that more than half of all collections in credit reports are associated with medical debt.

Medical expenses leading cause of bankruptcy

Arizona residents might be interested in the findings of a new report by the National Center for Healthcare Statistics. According to the report, medical bills lead to more bankruptcies in the United States than any other single cause. The year 2013 saw approximately 1.7 million Americans declare bankruptcy as a result of medical expenses.

Protection from creditors during a second marriage

When an Arizona couple in their 60s decides to take the plunge and remarry, they might wonder how that will affect their retirement accounts. One party might bring debt, such as credit cards or medical bills, to the union while the other is debt-free with retirement monies in place. Retirement accounts are generally safe from creditors even if someone has medical bills that are not covered by insurance. Even if the debt forces one party to later declare bankruptcy, creditors will not be able to access the funds in employer-provided retirement accounts.

Unpaid medical bills cited as top reason for consumer bankruptcy

Arizona is home to many older people who may find themselves with seemingly overwhelming medical costs from hospitalization or surgery. Although the Affordable Care Act increased access to medical insurance for many individuals and families, a 2013 study stated that unpaid medical bills were the top reason for bankruptcy filings. That means healthcare forced more people into filing for protection from creditors than did mortgage debt or credit card debt.

Increasing bankruptcies due to medical bills

An increasing number of Arizona residents who file for bankruptcy may be doing so due to medical expenses, not home loans or credit card debt. This is especially true for individuals who lack medical insurance. When someone is in poor health and they do not have health insurance to mitigate the costs of doctors' visits, tests and medications, medical expenses can pile up quickly. Individuals who seek treatment may also pay for treatments with credit cards, putting them further in debt.

Can Arizonians stop medical bills from being sent to collections?

An unexpected medical bill can lead to out-of-control debt when a Phoenix resident isn't able to pay it off in a timely manner. This happened to a parent trying to pay offer her daughter's cardiology bill, which was initially $1,300. After the insurance provider's discount, the remaining balance was $965. The woman paid at least $150 for three months to get the balance to about $550. However, the billing department's office wants her to either auto pay or pay in full, neither of which she can do. She received notice that the department would send the bill to collections, which is something that she didn't want.

Proposed best practices for medical debt collection on horizon

In the wake of growing concerns about healthcare, lawmakers are working to create legislation governing the way healthcare providers collect debts. Providers and debt collectors are aware of this push, resulting in a joint effort by the two largest organizations behind these professions to create proposed best practices for collecting debt incurred from medical expenses. Those two organizations recently presented the proposed standards to members. A Medical Debt Task Force made up of representatives from both of these organizations, medical providers, credit bureaus, credit agencies and patient advocate organizations created the proposal, which will not be mandatory but is expected to become standard.

  • MCBA | Maricopa County Bar Association
  • State Bar of Arizona
  • ABA | American bar Association | Defending Liberty Pursuing Justice
  • Oregon State bar
  • NACBA | National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
  • NACA | National Association of Consumer Advocates
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