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Medical bill woes: Balancing debt successfully

Medical bills are often unpredicted, building up as a result of an accident or sudden illness. Even with insurance, it's easy for Americans to fall thousands of dollars into debt. While a few thousand dollars of debt might not seem like much, it can be devastating when combined with an inability to work or other financial losses.

Medical care is expensive, and it's holding Americans back. The average consumer spends upwards of $10,000 on health care every year. Expenses vary based on the type of health insurance coverage you have, which is greatly determined by how much you can afford for premiums.

Another reason that medical bills add up is because of old age. Did you know that the average annual nursing home rate is $97,450? That cost isn't always covered by the government or assistance programs.

What can you do to better manage your medical debt?

The first thing everyone can do is to try to purchase the best possible insurance plan. It's easy to say that you're healthy and won't need a low deductible or high coverage, but an accident or sudden illness could change that completely. Having a low deductible means you pay more each month for your insurance, but the insurance company, in turn, pays more if you get sick or hurt.

While a lower monthly payment is great, it also means you're on the hook for more out-of-pocket expenses. For example, if your deductible is $10,000 and you pay $100 a month, you'll have to meet that $10,000 before insurance covers your bills. Similarly, if you pay $500 a month and have a $1,000 deductible, you'll be expected to meet the lower deductible before the carrier covers your medical bills completely.

Plan ahead for long-term care

Another thing to do is to make sure you're planning ahead for long-term care. Nursing home expenses, assisted-living costs and other medical care adds up fast as you age. Planning ahead can help you protect your estate while obtaining Medicaid or Medicare to help with your medical bills.

Should you go into bankruptcy over medical debt?

Bankruptcy can be one solution to your debt, but it's not the only option. If your debt is extreme and you see no way to pay it down or negotiate it away, then bankruptcy is something to talk about with your attorney the next time you are available to do so.

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