Medical Debt In Florida Is As Bad As You Think It Is
No matter how cautious you are with money, one accidental injury or serious but temporary illness can throw your finances into disarray. Unpaid medical bills represent a substantial portion of Americans’ debt burdens, especially in the income brackets where qualifying for a home mortgage or even most car loans is beyond most people’s reach. While health insurance helps, it does not guarantee protection from hefty hospital bills after a brief visit to the emergency room. To add insult to injury, the situation is even worse in Florida than in most other states. The good news is that a Miami debt lawyer can help you consolidate, settle, or discharge your medical debts.
When Hospitals Attack the Patients They Are Supposed to Help
Hospitals cannot refuse to provide emergency treatment to patients who need it, even if those patients are unable to pay. As a result, patients often get bills that follow them around for years and lead to escalating harassment from creditors and collection agencies. These are some of the aggressive measures that hospitals sometimes take to collect payment from the patients who are least able to afford it:
- Charging punitively high interest rates and late fees
- Placing liens on patients’ homes
- Filing lawsuits against patients
- Garnishing patients’ bank accounts and paychecks
According to a recent report on Bloomberg, these tactics often take place at nonprofit hospitals whose mission is to treat low-income patients. They aggressively pursue these measures even though the payment they receive from doing so accounts for less than one percent of their revenue, and they continued to do so even after receiving emergency federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, these hospitals are supposed to be transparent with patients about the reduced cost options available to uninsured patients whose income levels make it difficult to afford treatment. Black, Latino, and Native American patients are the most likely to be targets of these abusive bill collection practices, although the extent of the racial disparities varies from one state to another.
The Trouble With Florida
Medical debt is a problem nationwide, but Florida has it worse than many other states. The mean medical debt in the southeastern United States, including Florida, is $532 per person, more than a third higher than for any other region. This is no coincidence, since most of the southeastern states have not expanded Medicaid; only Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have expanded it. In Miami-Dade County, the percentage of residents with medical debt in collections is between 9 and 16 percent, whereas in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, it is between 16 and 23 percent, and in Glades and Hendry Counties, it is between 31 and 54 percent.
Protect Yourself from Unfair Medical Debt Collection Practices
Recently enacted laws aim to protect patients from abusive medical billing and debt collection procedures, but millions of patients currently struggling with medical debt can benefit from the services of a South Florida debt lawyer. Contact Nowack & Olson, PLLC in Miami, Florida to discuss your case.