Thomas F. Miles, Attorney and Counselor at Law
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Unmanageable debt often follows a serious medical condition

When a California resident experiences a serious illness or injury, the cost of medical treatment can often be financially devastating. This is certainly true for those millions of Americans who are uninsured, but even those who have health insurance are not immune to the challenges of high medical costs. Many people are surprised to learn just how high the cost of treatment can be, and find themselves faced with unmanageable debt in the wake of a serious medical event.

A series of billing changes within the healthcare industry are expected to ease the process of managing medical debt. Should the voluntary guidelines be widely implemented, patients should find that their medical bills are easier to read and understand. In addition, those who wish to dispute a charge can take advantage of a more streamlined dispute resolution process. All of these changes are being made in the hopes of making it easier for patients to pay for the cost of their care.

Other adjustments will focus on how outstanding debts are handled by collections agencies. One push is for healthcare providers and collections agencies to avoid sending bills to the same patient for the same services. This should allow patients to gain a better understanding of just how much they owe, and to whom.

While these billing changes are certainly welcome, they may be insufficient to address unmanageable debt resulting from an illness or injury. For many in California, understanding the charges they face is not the problem; it is the sheer volume of charges and the overall amount owed. Once an individual's medical debt has far surpassed his or her ability to pay, more aggressive forms of debt relief are called for, up to and including filing for personal bankruptcy.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, New medical billing standards will help patients handle debt, Linda A. Johnson, Feb. 16, 2014

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