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Study finds most collection calls are made about medical debt

Many South Carolina residents struggle with medical debt, and a study published on Jan. 12 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reveals that more than half of the calls made by U.S. collection agencies concern unpaid doctor or hospital bills. The federal agency also noticed that even consumers with high incomes and favorable credit scores often run into problems with medical debt.

The CFPB study comes less than a year after a National Public Radio poll found that medical bills are often a major concern even for people who have health insurance. However, the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 does seem to have had some impact. The Urban Institute says that 17.3 percent of American families had trouble paying medical bills in 2015, but that figure was 22 percent in 2013 before health insurance marketplaces were made available to the public.

President Obama's landmark health care law has been the topic of contentious political debate, and conservative lawmakers attempted to repeal it on several occasions. With repeal now seeming more likely, industry analysts are worried that an increase in the number of uninsured Americans could result in unsustainable levels of medical debt in the United States. One of the less publicized provisions of the 2010 law placed restrictions on the debt collection practices of nonprofit hospitals and clinics.

Debt collectors can be extremely aggressive, and putting an end to their harassment and abuse is one of the chief reasons that consumers file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 personal bankruptcies. Attorneys with experience in this area could explain the steps involved in pursuing debt relief, and they could also clear up many of the myths surrounding bankruptcy for those who are considering taking advantage of the fresh start it makes possible.

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