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How to avoid becoming encumbered by mounting medical debt

A study conducted by the Urban Institute shows that, as a whole, those with medical debt have fallen significantly, those struggling with past-due medical bills still are high. This trend has been shown to have the biggest impact on young adults.

Of the sample of 18- to 64-year-olds polled in 2012 and 2015 respectively, researchers found that only a quarter of respondents claimed that they had past-due medical debt in 2015, down nearly 5 percent from that same statistic in 2012. Among those in the 18- to 50-year-old range, also known as millennials and Gen Xers, sampled in 2015, 25 percent reported having past-due medical bills whereas only 20 percent among those ages 51 to 64 and 10 percent for those over 65 reported the same.

If for no other reason than the reduced propensity of millennials to develop illnesses at their young age as opposed to their older counterparts, these statistics initially shocked researchers. However, in doing further analysis, they were able to pinpoint two reasons this may be the case.

One reason has to do with younger adults being less apt to have health insurance. Another reason has to do with their reduced accumulation of wealth resulting from a decreased understanding of financial matters. In contrast, boomers have been shown to traditionally have health insurance and those over 65 are provided with Medicare by the federal government. The latter two groups enjoy more financial stability as well.

To reduce an individual's chances of becoming encumbered by medical debt, the researchers recommend that everyone, no matter what their age or health status, take out health insurance. And, when doing so, the National Patient Advocate Foundation advises against focusing heavily on monthly premiums, as out-of-pocket expenses can mount quickly as well.

Although, it is recommended that you set aside an emergency fund for unexpected expenses; if a bill shows up that you cannot pay, it's recommended that you contact your medical provider as soon as possible. Doing so will not only avoid the potential of it being turned over to collections, but may allow you to discuss with them the potential for negotiating a reduced payment or entering into a monthly repayment plan.

If you or someone you know if struggling with mounting medical debt, a Knoxville, Tennessee, debt relief attorney can provide advice and guidance in your legal matter

Source: NYTimes.com, "What to do if you have medical debt," Ann Carrns, March 10, 2017

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