Which is why it’s so important that you purchase an affordable health insurance plan if you’re not already covered by your employer.

Research has shown that many more Americans than you might expect have had their lives turned upside down by medical expenses.

Read on to find out how to protect yourself and your family.

How bad is the problem?

File folders with Past Due Medical Bills text
zimmytws / Shutterstock

Medical debt doesn’t discriminate by class or income.

According to a 2016 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half of the Americans who had filed for medical bankruptcy in the previous year were college-educated, and 26% had an annual household income above $50,000.

Meanwhile, more than half of people who have medical debts have no other debts listed on their credit reports, according to a study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And the same study found that 22% of consumers with debts in collection have only medical debts.

Get the right coverage for all your vehicles and pay less. Compare quotes in minutes with Pretected.

Get a Quote

How medical debt can control your life

Doctor going through results and medication on tablet with senior patient
goodluz / Shutterstock

You may think you have everything under control, but it only takes one surprise bump in the road or lump in your lymph node to swerve off course.

The average debt recorded on credit reports is $579, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s study — so less than $600 of debt can lead to you losing out on opportunities for years.

An estimated 11.1 million U.S. homeowners could reduce their monthly house payments by an average of $277 through a refi, according to mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight. But in order to refinance your existing mortgage to maximize your savings, you have to have a good or excellent credit score.

The same goes for financing a car, getting a credit card or any other type of loan.

And avoiding dealing with medical bills isn’t helping either. Simply because of the cost, 40% of adults aged 18 to 64 reported relying on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs instead of going to a doctor, according to the 2016 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The same study found that nearly one-third of those who have medical bill problems say dealing with those debts made it more difficult for them to pay their other, nonmedical bills.

What you can do to protect yourself

Doctor holds papers on table in foreground, man sitting in the background
Leonardo da / Shutterstock

The worst part of this issue is that it’s often avoidable. Simply locking in an affordable health insurance policy is all many people would need to protect themselves from going into debt.

And this year, because of coronavirus, open enrollment has been extended until May 15. That means you still have several weeks to lock in a cheap policy that will ensure your health needs are covered without having to empty your bank account.

But what if you’ve already gone into debt over medical expenses?

If you’re currently dealing with a few different doctor or hospital bills at high interest rates, you may want to consider a debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate to provide you with some relief.

And once you’ve got your debt sorted, you’ll want to spend some time repairing your credit score so you can get back on track financially — and once again eligible for those super-low interest rates on loans.

And most importantly, you’ll rest easy knowing that you’ve got protection against bills that would otherwise derail your plans for the future.

Compare car insurance and save up to $500 a year

If you haven't compared car insurance recently, you're probably paying too much for your policy. Getting quotes from multiple insurers used to be time-consuming, but today's technology makes it easy.

Using a free site like Pretected is easy and could help you save up to $500 a year on car insurance. In mintues, their "smart matching" system will provide tailor-made quotes from insurers that can meet all of your coverage needs - and your budget.

Stay protected on the road and find more affordable car insurance in minutes with Pretected.

About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Associate Editor

Sigrid’s current role is associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the MoneyWise team.

What to Read Next

Disclaimer

The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.