Numerous Americans may end up facing extremely high medical bills at some point in their life, even if they have some amount of health insurance that is supposed to defray these costs.
And unfortunately, because the cost of proper medical treatment can often be difficult to bear when paying out of pocket, many consumers are now being forced to put the high bills they rack up for hospital stays on their credit cards, according to a recent article in the New York Times. A Demos study referenced in the article found that about half of all moderate- and low-income households carry debt from out-of-pocket medical expenses on their credit card accounts, and the average amount of this type of debt on a balance is $1,678.
In all, more than 75 percent of households that carry debt at all had out-of-pocket medical expenses within the past three years, and 62 percent said that those bills contributed to their lingering credit card debt, the report said. And those that did use their cards to cover the cost of medical treatment put a median balance of $800 on their accounts to do so.
Not only did those who faced significant credit card debt as a result of their medical bills have more trouble paying their balances down every month, but it also made them less likely to seek preventative care, the report said. Half of those with medical debt said they skipped a visit to the doctor, avoided an important medical test, or did not get a prescription filled as a means of keeping their medical expenses to a minimum going forward.
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Consumers who rack up any kind of credit card debt on their existing accounts may have trouble paying it back if they are not responsible about doing so. This can include keeping spending to a minimum — or suspending it entirely — until an accrued balance is reduced to a reasonable size or paid off entirely, particularly by increasing the value of payments made into the account every month. However, some consumers may find that putting a portion of their medical bills on a credit card to be preferable to getting financing through the healthcare provider. This is because hospitals are usually quite aggressive in pursuing outstanding balances.
Image: Autistic Psycho, via Flickr