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Medical debt is a major concern for many people in Kansas City. After all, the very costs associated with overcoming a major illness such as cancer or a heart attack can lead to thousands of dollars in medical debt. However, a recent survey reports that this dire situation may be on the decline for some.

According to a recent telephonic survey, after increasing steadily for the past 10 years, the number of Americans who are struggling financially due to medical expenses is starting to go down. The survey, which was performed by a research group known as the Commonwealth Fund, questioned people about their medical expenses periodically over the past 10 years. Each time a survey was completed, starting from when the project began through 2012, a higher percentage of respondents reported that they were struggling with medical costs, making payments on medical costs or even having medical costs sent to collections. However, the most recent survey has shown these numbers have started to decline. In addition, the survey also revealed that fewer respondents reported avoiding seeking medical treatment due to concerns over the costs.

While it is too soon to tell whether improved access to health care is at the heart of this decrease, it is at least an indication that respondents are better able to afford health care than they were in years past. That being said, many Americans, including those in Kansas City, find that paying for medical bills causes a significant financial strain. Although the survey revealed a decrease in trouble paying for medical debt from 2012’s high of 41 percent, 35 percent of respondents still reported having trouble with medical debt in 2014. In fact, according to a study recently published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more than 20 percent of Americans have medical costs reflected on their credit reports, and medical costs are a major factor for many who file for bankruptcy.

While this survey is good news for American debtors, it should be noted that those struggling with medical debt do have options. One of these options is filing for bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy can be the fresh start debtors need to overcome their debt and begin taking control of their financial future. Consumers should make sure to explore all their debt relief options, and seek help if necessary, so they can make informed choices.

Source: The New York Times, “Signs of a Decline in Financial Distress Connected to Medical Bills,” Margot Sanger-Katz, Jan. 15, 2015