This week USA Today shared the results of what is being heralded as the largest ever study of medical debt among Americans. The Illinois birth injury lawyers at our firm realize the scope of the problem of medical indebtedness, because many of the families with which we work have been rocked with incredibly high medical bills. It is not an exaggeration to say that for many families, paying off these bills often takes a lifetime.
The newly released study on the topic was conducted by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data was culled from surveys completed by at least 52,000 individuals over the course of the first six months of last year. One observer-a researcher on the topic of medical indebtedness for independent policy groups-conceded that this particular effort was likely the largest of its kind. In other words, this data offers the best evidence yet of the true scope of the medical indebtedness problem across the country.
Unfortunately, the research indicates that the problem is serious and not decreasing. It seems that one in five Americans are struggling with this debt. Of that 20%, half of them are actually able to pay anything toward those medical bills. That means that for many families, the lurking indebtedness shows no signs of abating. The problem is truly a constant one that will likely affect these individuals indefinitely. Obviously, it comes as no surprise that low income community members struggle more with these bills than those in higher income brackets. On the whole low income residents are 300% more likely to have difficulty paying these bills.
Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at our firm appreciates what these stark figures mean. Indebtedness of any kind can influence virtually everything about the debtor’s life. Most major decisions are dictated by financial concerns. The neighborhood where one resides, the quality of schools nearby, the access to enrichment programs, and many other factors can be shaped by available funds. In today’s competitive world it is hard enough to get by without debt, but having tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs hanging around one’s neck often makes it impossible to get ahead. Indebtedness of parents obviously affects children, and so the overall cost of this problem should not be underestimated.
Sadly, those families who have suffered a birth injury may be more likely than others to be struggling with medical debt. This is true for two reasons. First, the initial medical costs to help the injured child after the delivery are often quite high. For example, medical bills can reach tens of thousands in a matter of days if intensive care is needed. Beyond those initial medical costs, families whose children suffer birth injuries have a myriad of other incidental costs which must be paid. For example, a child with cerebral palsy is likely to need special equipment as he or she ages to help with basic tasks, special day care services might be needed, and various other costs add up each and every day for these families. It is no wonder than many medical debts cannot be paid down quickly because the day-to-day costs faced by these families are often staggering.
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