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Medical debt leads many to seek debt relief through bankruptcy

The cost of medical debt can be financially crippling for many, resulting in a heavy financial burden that is hard to overcome. Even for patients who have some form of insurance coverage, with the high costs of medical care there can still be out-of-pocket expenses that can quickly add up. In many cases, it's not uncommon for these medical bills to lead a person to file for bankruptcy.

One woman recently shared her story with a local news station. It was back in 2008 when she was diagnosed with organ failure. From there she was faced with a number of medical problems, which forced her to retire from her job with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She had worked there for 18 years and is now still months away from qualifying for Medicare.

However, even though she had insurance at the time of her diagnosis, stays at the hospital, certain medical procedures, outpatient surgeries and prescriptions led to $15,000 in medical debt. In 2010 she filed for personal bankruptcy.

And while this story is certainly one most Florida residents hope would never happen to them, it turns out she is hardly alone. In fact, according to research done at Harvard University, more than 60 percent of bankruptcies filed in 2007 were related, at least in part, to medical debt.

Even in another study, which claims medical debt contributes to just 17 percent of bankruptcies, the fact remains that being unable to pay medical bills is still a serious threat to a person's financial viability.

For now, while there is still much debate over medical coverage and subsequently medical bills, for the time being it is many former patients who are continuing to grapple with having an unsettling amount of medical debt and constant calls from debt collectors. In turn, this leads many to file for bankruptcy.

Source: KUNC, "Patients Go Bankrupt As Medical Costs Soar," Erika Gonzalez, May 21, 2012

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