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If physical ills become fiscal ills, what options exist?

The Tilt-A-Whirl can be a lot of fun, if you're at an amusement park. The experience of chaotic twisting and turning is not at all fun in other settings, but it is exactly the feeling that you might feel when faced with sudden, unexpected medical bills.

Unlike the usual bills that many consumers face -- we're talking credit card bills, mortgage payments or utility bills -- medical bills are often shrouded in mystery. A bill for lab work may be un-itemized. Further complicating matters, you may not know what insurance is supposed to cover, what the company will cover, and what you could wind up being obligated to pay.

Considering that level of chaos, it is no wonder that medical bills often get put off until you can sort everything out. Suddenly, you might find yourself receiving notices that your bill is 60 days past due and the notice is coming from a collector. Your medical bills have become medical debt and your physical ills have now become financial ones.  

How bad is the issue? According to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, half of all the accounts currently being reported by collection agencies fall into the medical debt category. The agency says that the credit scores of approximately 20 percent of all consumers have been negatively affected as a result.

Congress and the CFPB have attempted to pass bills or adopt policies to shield credit scores from the oddities of the medical billing system. So far those efforts have been successfully resisted by the credit industry.

Barring action by regulators, consumers facing financial issues because of medical debt may feel abandoned. You are not alone. Contacting an experienced attorney may help you find debt relief.

Source: The New York Times, "When Health Costs Harm Your Credit," Elisabeth Rosenthal, March 8, 2014

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