Medical debt is typically very different from other kinds of debt. No one chooses to become ill or to be injured in a car accident, fall or other mishap. In many cases of medical debt, the person who was sick or injured did not have health insurance, so there was no one to cover their medical costs.
The story of one American family can by turns break your heart and fill you with hope. The tale began 11 years ago when a couple found out they were going to become parents of twins. They were happy to hear the news, but just 24 weeks into her pregnancy, the mom gave premature birth.
The numbers make it clear why medical bills overwhelm so many people. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that one out of five seniors (people 65 and older) struggle to pay their medical bills. Nearly half of those surveyed said it would be difficult for them to pay a $500 unexpected medical bill. Thirty percent of insured Americans said they have received bills in which their health insurance covered less than they expected.
She owed tens of thousands of dollars to a Florida hospital for the month she had spent there in intensive care after falling into a coma. In addition, she owed tens of thousands more to the specialists who cared for her during her illness. Unfortunately, she was unable to write a six-figure check to cover the bills.
According to researchers and pollsters, the number one reason for filing bankruptcy is medical debt. Unfortunately, bankruptcy comes with a number of downsides that can pile up quickly. You can lose your house in bankruptcy, as well as your car, your stocks and your bonds. Bankruptcy also stains your credit rating for a decade, making it close to impossible to get a loan for any reason.
One of the most difficult forms of debt to deal with is the debt that accumulates as a result of a health care crisis. Medical debt can be especially difficult to deal with emotionally because it's typically a two-headed beast that brings with it enormous medical bills and a significant medical issue for you or a loved one.