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Medical debt affects thousands of Michigan families

Life can be unpredictable. There are ups and downs that are unplanned and unforeseeable, and in many ways our lives are shaped around these shifts in circumstance. For many individuals and families in Michigan, a medical emergency or serious illness can throw life off track and bring a great deal of stress and expense. When a sudden medical need arises, high levels of debt often follow.

Even a successful family can become crippled by medical debt. While we live in a country that has an incredibly sophisticated health care system, this high standard of care comes with an equally high price tag. When a medical emergency occurs, families mobilize to support the sick or injured person, as well as those closest to him or her. Often, when the dust settles, the medical bills that follow are financially debilitating for a family.

People in this scenario should know that while a mountain of medical debt seems overwhelming, there are options available for debt relief. Many turn to their communities for help in the form of medical fundraisers. While these efforts can raise money to help offset the costs of care, they are usually insufficient to address significant levels of medical debt.

Over 820,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2007, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Greater than 60 percent of these bankruptcies were the direct result of medical debt, according to a study conducted by the American Journal of Medicine.

Medical debt is a growing problem in this country and in doesn't just happen to those without health insurance. High deductibles and medication costs and other expenses associated with a medical condition are often not covered, including lost wages for both the injured or sick patient and his or her family.

For many in Michigan, the best means of debt relief may be a personal bankruptcy filing. Bankruptcy can put an end to aggressive collections calls and can also lead to the discharge of large volumes of consumer debt, including medical debt. As the individual requiring medical care heals and recovers, bankruptcy can provide a fresh financial start and allow the family to focus on the recovery process.

Source: The Columbian, "New front in disease fight: Medical Fundraisers," Marissa Harshman, Nov. 4, 2012

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