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Medical bills the leading cause of U.S. consumer bankruptcies

According to a recent study by NerdWallet Health, the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy filings in the U.S. is not credit card debt or mortgages, but rather health care bills. In fact, an estimated two million people in the U.S. will file for bankruptcy this year due to unpaid medical bills.

The authors of the study analyzed statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal court system. Overall, they discovered that a staggering number of people in the U.S. will struggle with paying their medical bills. In addition to the two million bankruptcy filings, approximately 56 million people in the U.S. will struggle to pay their health care related expenses, even if they do not file for bankruptcy. 

It may come as a surprise to some, but people with health insurance are not immune from these problems. Experts estimate that around 10 million people in the U.S. with health insurance coverage will still run up medical bills this year that they are unable to pay. Unfortunately, given the struggles of many people with health insurance, it does not appear that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is likely to solve any of these issues.

Although the number of bankruptcy filings related to medical bills has dropped in 2013, these bankruptcies still represent roughly 60 percent of all filings. Unfortunately, medical bills are just the beginning for many people: due to the high cost of health care, many people take on extra credit card debt, which can lead to further financial trouble. 

Source: CNBC, “Medical bills are the biggest cause of US bankruptcies: study,” Dan Mangan, June 25, 2013

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