Even With Insurance, You Could Get Slammed by Medical Debt

The Deseret News looks at how even people with health care insurance can find themselves with a mountain of medical debt.

The few issues on which Democrats and Republicans agree as they debate the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act is the high cost of health care. Although medical debt has declined under the Affordable Care Act, about one-quarter of Americans under the age of 65 have unpaid medical bills, according to a new study from the Urban Institute. And the Kaiser Family Foundation reported last week that even families with health insurance are finding it harder to pay their premiums and meet their deductibles, and that 27 percent have postponed seeking health care because of the cost.

Their concerns are not unfounded. A few financial missteps, a surgery to correct a chronic condition or an ambulance ride to the emergency room can wreck a family’s finances for years. Medical debt is a major factor in U.S. bankruptcies, and it’s the No. 1 reason that debt collectors call, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently said.

While you can’t always avoid an illness or accident that leads you to need care, there are strategies you can use to keep medical bills to a minimum. And if those bills have already piled up, knowing how to analyze them — and challenge them — might keep you from nightmarish scenarios, such as bankruptcy or wage garnishment.