Despite Recently Enacted Protections, Medical Debt Can Mess You Up
The medical debt crisis in the United States is not new. The cost of healthcare, even for Americans with health insurance, has been unaffordable for decades. Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the panic has subsided, and almost everyone you know has been infected with COVID, vaccinated against it, or both, but the economic pain lingers. A few years ago, medical debt was our biggest complaint, but now medical debt is just one of many financial hardships that is causing the average American household to live paycheck to paycheck. Today, car loans, credit card debt, and buy now pay later (BNPL) payments are putting so much pressure on consumers that the situation is unsustainable, and regulators have begun to take action against some of the most insidious practices that keep people burdened with debt. If you are struggling with medical debt, contact a Boca Raton debt lawyer.
What’s Next for Medical Debt Relief?
In the past two years, several small steps have eased the medical debt burden on American households. For example, most states adopted the Medicaid expansion that reduced the number of uninsured residents; Florida is one of 11 states that have not adopted the Medicaid expansion, meaning that it has a higher percentage of residents without health insurance than most. The No Surprises Act, which became effective at the beginning of 2022, limited the prices that healthcare providers can charge for emergency treatments, but it defined “emergency treatment” very narrowly. Even more recently, the three major credit reporting bureaus stopped including unpaid medical debt balances less than $500 on consumers’ credit reports, but consumers are still responsible for paying those bills.
In other words, with the exception of Medicaid expansion, these are purely cosmetic fixes. Consumer advocates want the IRS to set stricter requirements for hospitals about providing free and reduced cost services to low-income patients in order for the hospitals to keep their nonprofit hospital tax exemptions. Currently, there is no standard formula for determining how low a patient’s income must be to qualify the patient for free services. In other words, hospitals are still charging too much to patients who can least afford to pay.
How a Consumer Law Attorney Can Help You If You Are Struggling With Medical Debt
Until major changes come to the economics of healthcare, the best way to deal with your medical debt is on an individual basis, treating it like any other unfairly burdensome debt. The good news is that it is possible to discharge medical debts in bankruptcy, unlike tax debts and federal student loans. If you do not want the negative marks on your credit report that come with a bankruptcy filing, then debt settlement or debt consolidation might be a better option for dealing with your medical debt.
Work With a Debt Lawyer to Break Free From Medical Debt
A South Florida debt lawyer can help you if medical bills have been following you around for years and causing you stress. Contact Nowack & Olson, PLLC in Boca Raton, Florida to discuss your case.