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What are your options when struggling with medical debt?

A great number of Virginia residents are facing unmanageable medical bills. Even for those who have decent medical insurance policies, a sudden illness or injury can result in a substantial financial burden. Making matters worse, being ill or injured can result in time off of work and a reduced income. Whatever the case may be, the fact is that many of us cannot afford our medical bills and as a result medical debt has become the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.

So, what can you do if you find yourself unable to pay your medical bills?

One of the most important things to do is to explore your options early. When dealing with debt, the longer things drag on, the worse the problem tends to become.

So, the first thing you can do is read your medical bills carefully and ensure that you understand them. If you are confused by the totals, ask for an itemized bill. Errors are common in medical billing, and if you were billed for a medication or care that you did not receive, it can be very important for you to have this corrected and removed from your account.

Once you know what you really owe, it might be time to think about negotiating. Talk to the billing department and see if they will work with you to come up with a mutually acceptable payment plan; this might even include a reduced balance or special rates. Ask about any assistance programs that might be available dependent on your income.

If your medical provider will not work with you to come up with a manageable option, you might want to consider talking to a bankruptcy attorney about your legal options. There are debt relief strategies that may help you regain your financial footing. Bankruptcy is complicated and it is not the best solution for everyone who is struggling with medical debt, so it is important to talk to a reputable attorney about your unique circumstances.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "What to Do When You Can't Pay Medical Bills," Abby Hayes, May 25, 2014

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