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Breaking the bank: Rising health care costs put families in debt

As health care costs increase, so too do the number of families who encounter problems paying medical bills and associated fees. Both public and private insurance companies often transfer the rising price of care to beneficiaries, leaving them scrambling to cope with plump premiums and large out of pocket expenses.

In 2010, just one in five American families reported they had trouble paying medical bills. By the first half of 2011, that number had risen to nearly one in three. The problem was most prevalent among the poor and the uninsured.

However, a startling 30 percent of those with private health insurance plans also reported problems making payments. And the issue didn't stop there. Around 40 percent of those with public health insurance cited similar difficulties.

Such statistics corroborate older data demonstrating that more than half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States occur due to health care costs. Of these, it has been estimated that somewhere around two thirds were declared by insured persons.

Doubtless, the price of health care can be financially crippling. And when medical bills go to collections, the adverse consequences may just break the bank. Credit scores drop and potential lenders back away, even when unpaid debt totals less than a thousand dollars.

That said, it may be time to re-think your health insurance plan. Deductibles and co-pays should never leave you with an overdrawn bank account, nor should they chip away at dollars set aside for rent, mortgage payments or the kids' college education.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Insured but bankrupt: The hidden side of health care costs," Howard Brody, March 19, 2012

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