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Did you know that bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills will affect nearly 2 million people this year?  Unpaid medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy filing in the U.S. today, outpacing bankruptcies caused by credit card bills or unpaid mortgages. The data finds that most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners and carried health insurance.  

Since bankruptcy is an extreme measure, perhaps there are steps you can take now to help:

1) When faced with medical bills, the first step is to ensure that they are accurate.  Don't let billing errors cause you undue stress or deplete your finances. 

2) If you have health insurance, be sure you understand what it does and does not cover.

3) Once a medical facility bills your insurance company, take the time to review the Explanation of Benefits statement you will receive that tells you what was charged, what insurance paid, and what is your responsibility to pay.

4) If you are surprised by the amount charged, request an itemized statement from your medical provider (if you haven't already received one).  Look for duplicate charges, verify that the length of your hospital stay and the room type are accurate, inquire about any charges you don't recognize, and contact the billing office promptly with any questions.  If the issue cannot be resolved by phone, be sure to write to both your insurance company and the billing department. 

5) When seeking medical treatment, keep track of the tests and procedures done.  Have a trusted friend or family member help you so that you have a record that you can compare to what is billed. 

6) Most hospitals are willing to negotiate with patients about their outstanding balance.  See if the hospital or provider will offer a discount to you if you cannot pay in full.  See if you can arrange to make payments on your bill over time if you cannot make a lump-sum payment.

7) If billing errors are found and you're having trouble resolving them, seek out the assistance of a patient advocate at the hospital.  If further help is needed, contact your state attorney general's office or department of health.