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It is an unfortunate and scary reality that an unexpected medical condition can strike at any time. Those who are subjected to these illnesses may not only be physically and emotionally damaged, but they can be financially harmed too. The cost of medical care remains high, and keeping up with minimum payments can be difficult, if not impossible. This is especially true when a medical condition renders an individual unable to work.

Medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy. Even those who have insurance may find it difficult to keep up with payments. In fact, 75 percent of those who file for medical bankruptcy have health insurance. Since medical expenses can cause dramatic financial challenges, those struggling with such debt should not be ashamed to consider bankruptcy.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren have proposed legislation in hopes of making medical debt-related bankruptcies fairer. The Medical Bankruptcy Fairness Act will seek to eliminate credit-counseling requirements, allow student loans to be forgiven and exempt $250,000 in property, thus allowing families to keep their home.

Though the bill is not yet law, its proposition is a good sign that Congress has recognized the problem of extensive medical debt and is trying to remedy it. Yet, until the bill becomes law, those struggling with medical debt will likely still have some tough hurdles to clear. Fortunately, legal help can be acquired.

Bankruptcy often has a stigma attached to it, but those facing financial challenges should recognize that it is an option created by law to obtain debt relief, eliminate debt and give individuals a second chance at a fresh start. Therefore, those who are having difficulty making their debt payments should consider seeking advice about the bankruptcy process. He or she can discuss the different bankruptcy strategies and how each might be beneficial to an individual’s particular circumstances.

Source: ACA International, “Senators Introduce Measure to Help Families Struggling with Medical Debt,” June 6, 2014