The number of people in our nation struggling with medical debt is truly staggering. A Kaiser Health News and NPR investigation reported that over 100 million individuals in the U.S. carry medical debt.
This debt does not just include bills from hospitals and other medical facilities. Some people took on credit card debt to pay for their medical expenses. Others sought loans from family members.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported that approximately one-fifth of respondents carrying medical debt believed they would never be able to pay it off. So how are Americans coping with medical debt?
Coping with medical debt
People in the United States carrying medical debt have found various ways to cope with the situation.
Perhaps feeling they had no other choice, 63% of respondents have spent less on necessities, including food and clothing to pay back medical debt. 28% of respondents have put off purchasing a home or going to school.
Sadly, 48% depleted most or all of their savings to pay back medical debt.
Forty percent of respondents sought additional work to pay what they owe in medical debt.
Twenty-four percent of respondents sought aid from nonprofit organizations or charities to cope with medical debt.
Finally, 17% of respondents filed for bankruptcy or had their homes foreclosed upon.
Bankruptcy can often discharge medical debt
Filing for bankruptcy to cope with outstanding medical debt may seem to be an act of desperation, but it does not have to be. It is a viable way to discharge what you will never be able to pay back, leaving you with a clean financial slate to start anew with.
Whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there is a good chance your medical debt could be discharged. Unsecured, non-priority debts like medical debt are often extinguished through bankruptcy.
It is true that filing for bankruptcy will affect your credit score for a few years. But it is often worse to have debt in collections, being foreclosed upon or having your wages garnished or bank accounts frozen all because you cannot pay back unsurmountable medical debt.
Moreover, it is entirely possible to rebuild your credit following bankruptcy. With proper planning, filing for bankruptcy can be a good way to address your medical debt.