“I’ve stopped checking my mail,” said Travis, overwhelmed by the past-due medical bills and collections notices piling up in his mailbox. He was behind on everything except his mortgage. To make matters worse, Travis’ wife was in need of extensive medical care but—because they were behind on payments—the medical provider would not extend care until they started paying again.
Unfortunately, Travis’ situation is all too familiar. It seems like every week another family is in the news, sharing their story about unexpected medical bills, unaffordable healthcare costs, or being so burdened by medical debt that they have to file for bankruptcy. These stories aren’t anomalies; they’re very much a reflection of reality: one in four Americans are struggling to pay medical bills; 70% of Americans are paying for significant healthcare costs; and medical bills are the number one cause of all U.S. bankruptcies.
Causes of Medical Debt
One reason why medical debt is so pervasive is because no one is immune to the increasing costs of healthcare. It’s a problem that affects most age groups, communities, and socioeconomic levels. Even those who think they’re well-insured or financially responsible can find themselves saddled with bills amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, more than 50% of Americans with medical debt have no other debt on their credit reports.