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Medical debt is hiding on many people's credit cards

No Pennsylvania resident plans to take on more debt than he or she can handle, but plenty of people still find themselves in this predicament. Many start out with only small amounts of credit card debt that quickly snowballs into something much larger and unmanageable.

However, frivolous purchases or luxury goods are likely not at the root of many individuals' credit card debt problems. Increasingly, medical debt is showing up on credit card statements, which can carry a much heavier burden than traditional medical bills.

The cost of medical care is going up

Patients now pay 34 percent more for medical care than they did 10 years ago. Although other costs have also risen, such as housing and food, medical costs far outpaced both these expenses and wage growth alike. When the average person already struggles to keep up with daily household expenses, the rising cost of medical care can seem impossible to tackle, which is why so many people use credit cards to pay off these astronomical bills.

You often cannot minimize or mitigate medical bills like other expenses. A person who struggles to make his or her house payment might choose to sell it and purchase a smaller home or begin renting instead. It is possible to purchase cheaper ingredients to lower grocery costs or to minimize electricity usage for a lower utility bill. Such cost-cutting strategies, however, often aren't readily available for medical expenses, as they can be tied to key medical needs for a person.

The high cost of credit cards

Credit cards do not differentiate between medical debt and a soda purchased at a gas station, so you will end up paying the same interest rate for medical bills as for other purchases. Annually, Americans pay over $12 billion in interest for medical debt, or about $471 per person. Many find themselves in cycles of paying off interest while barely making headway on the principal.

It can be hard to avoid putting bills for health care on your credit card. Across America, 29 percent of people struggle to make even the minimum payments on their medical bills. Of those, 37 percent pay off some of their medical debt with credit cards. While this creates a brief sense of relief, it also leads to additional interest that means paying more in the long run.

Debt is sometimes unavoidable

No individual should have to choose between necessary medical care and maintaining his or her financial security, but the reality is that many people simply cannot afford the current skyrocketing costs of health care. Whether for life-saving interventions or preventative care, many people in Pennsylvania will take on some amount of medical debt in their lifetime.

Credit card and medical debt may seem impossible to overcome, but consumer bankruptcy can be a smart and effective choice for some people. By clearing debts through Chapter 7 or organizing a repayment plant with Chapter 13, consumers may be able to create a clearer, more financially secure future with the help of an experienced lawyer.

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