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Medical expenses driving up credit card debt

Health insurance has been a hot topic here in Michigan and across the country for years. The basic idea is simple: people pay monthly premiums for a plan which, in turn, is supposed to cover their health care costs -- maybe not all, but at least enough to keep medical expenses from threatening their financial stability and security.

Unfortunately, even with insurance, many are finding that the sky-high costs of prescription medications leave them struggling to make ends meet elsewhere in their lives. More insurance plans today are shifting the costs of prescriptions onto the consumers. Some may find it difficult to understand the technical terminology and insurance jargon that fills their plan brochures and end up making ill-informed decisions about their coverage and their medications.

Whatever the reasons -- and there are many -- medical debt is becoming increasingly burdensome in this country. Patients may direct all of their financial resources at their pharmacy, doctor and hospital bills, while using their credit cards to cover groceries, rent or mortgage payments and utilities. Older Americans who are likely to have both lower average incomes and more complicated medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon, though any Michigan resident may find that unexpected life changes like a serious illness or injury could leave them exploring their options for debt relief.

Filing for bankruptcy may be the first step for many who need to eliminate debt incurred as a result of health care costs. It is a serious decision to be given careful consideration, but one should also consider whether the financial challenges that come with medical debt can be overcome by more traditional routes. For some, bankruptcy can offer a fresh financial start that other approaches cannot match.

Source: CNBC, "Medication costs fuel painful medical debt, bankruptcies," Dan Mangan, May 28, 2014

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