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Medical debt a serious concern for many Michigan residents

As we age, it is a statistical reality that our health care needs will increase at the same time that our earning potential declines due to retirement and other factors. This can leave many Michigan residents, even those who have carefully planned for retirement, in a financial bind. As health care costs continue to rise, insurance coverage has not necessarily kept pace with the true cost of medical treatment. Unfortunately, many older Americans find themselves in serious debt as they enter their retirement years, leaving some scrambling for debt relief options.

A recent study looks at the ways in which people handle a budgetary shortfall in which the costs of daily living leave little left to pay for health needs. The participants all had health insurance of some sort, but had also applied for financial assistance through a nonprofit foundation to cover their health care costs. The study revealed that people cope with this type of financial shortfall in a variety of ways.

For some, the answer is simple: when their money runs out each month, they simply go without the prescriptions or treatment they need. Others perform a juggling act every month, determining which bills must be paid and which can slide another month or two. Some pay their health care costs first, then use whatever is left for groceries and other essentials. Still others rely on credit cards to get them through when funds are tight, which can lead to a troubling debt problem on top of an already stressed financial outlook.

When an individual finds that existing debt levels are placing serious constraints on their monthly budgeting, or that medical debt has grown to an overwhelming level, it may be time to consider options for debt relief. For some in Michigan, personal bankruptcy may be the answer. Bankruptcy can eliminate a majority of existing debt, which can then free up room in one's monthly budget to allow for health care expenses to be paid. The result can be better health care and a reduced level of stress, both financial and emotional.

Source: U.S. News Health, "High Medical Bills Driving Some Americans to Extreme Measures," Karen Pallarito, Jan. 18, 2013

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