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How to handle medical debts responsibly

The leading cause of bankruptcy filings in the United States is medical debt. In 2014, 40 percent of Florida residents and other Americans went into debt because they sought medical treatment. While it may seem tempting to file for bankruptcy to get rid of medical debt, it may come with serious consequences.

For instance, an individual may incur legal and other fees when filing. A bankruptcy will likely stay on a person’s credit report for several years, which may make it harder to get a car or other loans. Although health care costs are rising, there may be ways to keep them to a manageable level. Individuals are encouraged to get coverage that fits their needs and use resources like Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Another way to keep care costs down is to seek treatment as soon as possible. Health conditions are usually easier to treat in the early stages. Those who do have medical bills are urged to acknowledge them and take them seriously. Many care providers will take whatever a person can afford to send them every month as opposed to getting nothing. By staying proactive about medical bills, it may be possible to spot incorrect charges or double billings. A phone call in such a scenario could save someone hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy may make it possible to stop wage garnishment and creditor contact. It also may make it possible for a person to retain his or her property during the repayment period of three or five years. In some cases, it may be possible to renegotiate the terms of a current loan if desired. An lawyer may explain more about who qualifies for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and other potential benefits of doing so.

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