With input from partners and advocates around the state, Georgia Watch has produced the Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt, to be distributed online and in print in February. The guide and accompanying workshops will provide information and resources to empower consumers to answer some of the most common and complex healthcare and health insurance questions, including questions around insurance coverage, explanation of benefits statements, bill payment options, and debt collection.
Uninsured and insured consumers alike are struggling with the high costs of healthcare. Healthcare costs today are higher than they have been in 50 years, and consumers are paying higher and higher health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses. Some people are sinking into debt when they can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Here are some facts about medical debt:
- 43 million people have past due medical bills that are in collections.
- More than 50% of collection items on credit reports are for medical debt and nearly one in five (19.5%) consumers with a credit report show a medical bill in collection.
- Healthcare costs are the #1 reason people file bankruptcy, which leaves you vulnerable to lawsuits by healthcare providers and debt collectors.
- Having medical debt may cause you to delay or go without needed care.
- Medical debt may force you to choose between paying your medical bills and other necessary expenses like groceries or rent.
The good news is that medical debt can be managed and minimized. The Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt will offer resources and information to help consumers navigate the complexities.
A series of educational workshops for consumers and advocates will accompany the publication of the guide and run through April. If you are interested in obtaining hard copies of the guide and/or participating in or hosting a workshop, please contact Berneta L. Haynes for more information.