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How one medical emergency can lead to bankruptcy even if insured

We have previously written that medical debt is the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. In a nation that often prides itself on offering “the best health care in the world,” this simply should not happen.

It is important to note that serious medical debt does not just affect those without health insurance. Even with insurance, each of us may be just one medical emergency away from unmanageable levels of debt. It is scenario that affects countless Americans in Florida and around the country.

A recent news story is a good example of how quickly medical debt can pile up due to factors beyond a person’s control. The story comes from Wisconsin, where a 29-year-old woman is now considering bankruptcy because she suffered emergency heart problems and was taken to an out-of-network hospital.

The woman collapsed at work one day last year. She was suffering from heart tremors in what later turned out to be cardiac arrest. When EMTs arrived, they could have taken her to a hospital just three blocks away. It was also in her insurance network.

For whatever reason, she was taken to a different, out-of-network hospital. She was in a medically induced coma for 10 days and had to spend an additional week in the cardiac unit after that. Her hospital bills initially added up to more than $250,000.

The hospital reduced her bill significantly, and her insurance company also paid for a large portion of what she owed. But she was still left with a bill that she cannot afford. She said she now believes bankruptcy may be one of her only options.

On one hand, any of us would feel lucky just to be alive after such a serious medical emergency. And although the woman says she is incredibly grateful for the medical care she received, her current and future plans are now in jeopardy because of these insurmountable bills.

Life happens. And when it does, it can be unaffordably expensive. If you find yourself in a similar situation that cannot be resolved in other ways, please know that bankruptcy is an option.

Source: NY Daily News, “Wisconsin woman faces bankruptcy from hospital bills after cardiac arrest at 29,” Nicole Hensley, Nov. 12, 2014

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