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Medical debts most common in collections, says study

Kentucky readers might be interested in a study released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in January. According to the study, of those who have been contacted by a collections agency, 59 percent said the contact was due to debts related to medical services. People with unpaid medical debt, unlike those with other types of debt, were common across a range of ages, credit scores and incomes, according to the study.

The second-most common type of debt for which people received collections calls was telecommunications, at 37 percent. Unpaid utility bills were third-most common, at 28 percent. The sample for the study, which was conducted from December 2014 to March 2015, came from the CFPB's consumer credit panel, which is made up of a random sampling of major credit reporting agency credit records.

Difficulties with medical debt continue despite the increased availability of health insurance. A 2015 poll conducted by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The T.H. Chan School of Public Health and NPR found that 26 percent of respondents claimed health care costs seriously impacted family spending and finances. When medical debt goes to collections, it may ruin people's credit. It may also make it less likely they will seek necessary medical care in the future.

In a case where a person is struggling to pay down medical debt or unpaid bills from other sources, an attorney may be able to help. An attorney with experience in bankruptcy law, for example, may be able to suggest options for debt elimination or reduction. An attorney may be able to help stop collections calls, negotiate settlement of debts for less than the amount outstanding or draft and file the legal documents necessary to initiate a bankruptcy action under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

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