Mississippi residents who have had health emergencies likely can appreciate that medical bills are a factor in approximately two-thirds of all bankruptcy filings across the country. A study that contained this information was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Feb. 6.

For the study, a research team surveyed 910 random U.S. citizens who filed for personal bankruptcy between 2013 and 2016. They found that medical expenses ruin the finances of around 530,000 American families every year. They also found that around 66.5 percent of all bankruptcy filings were at least partially attributed to unpaid medical bills. The study is the first to explore the association between bankruptcy and medical bills since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act nearly nine years ago.

According to the lead author of the study, who is on the faculty at both the Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York’s Hunter College, the findings show that most Americans could be forced into the poorhouse after suffering just one major illness. He also said that health insurance provides inadequate protection because of co-payments, deductibles and other loopholes that push health costs back onto patients. The authors concluded that, while bankruptcy can help bail people out, the best long-term solution would involve changing the way Americans pay for health care.

Individuals who face overwhelming medical bills and other types of debt could help themselves by consulting with a bankruptcy attorney about their situation. The attorney could carefully assess the details of the case and suggest ways to stop creditor harassment and obtain debt relief. One possible solution could be to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, which could lead to the discharge of several types of unsecured obligations.

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