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Michael D. Hart, P.C.
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How Virginia residents can gain control over medical debt

A study published in Health Affairs analyzed the 2016 credit reports of 4 million people. It found that over half of medical debts that went into collections each year were for less than $600. The study also found that those in their 20s have a greater chance of struggling with medical debt compared to those in their 60s. The average medical debt went down by 40 percent between the ages of 27 and 64.

This is possibly because younger people are less likely to have insurance or any meaningful savings. Those who are in their 60s may also qualify for health insurance through Medicare. However, it didn't account for those who may have paid their bills with credit cards. Individuals who are having trouble paying their medical bills are encouraged to talk with their creditor before the bill goes to collections.

Hospitals generally send bills to collection about 6 to 12 months after they are accrued. Prior to this taking place, a hospital may be able to forgive a portion of the debt or refer a patient to a charitable program. However, once the bill is sent to a collection agency, this is no longer possible. Furthermore, having an account sent to collections can reduce a person's credit score and subject him or her to numerous phone calls.

Individuals who are having difficulty paying medical bills may wish to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Doing so might allow a person to reorganize debt and pay it off over three or five years. During the repayment period, creditors generally cannot contact a person about the debt or take actions such as repossessing a car or foreclosing on a home. An attorney may explain further the benefits of filing for bankruptcy as a form of debt relief.

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