Here's How Medical Debt Grows, Gets Out Of Hand - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Medical Debt Epidemic

Medical Debt Epidemic

Tackling the "Medical Debt Epidemic,” helping North Texas families erase medical debt and minimize medical bills.

Here's How Medical Debt Grows, Gets Out Of Hand

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Here's How Medical Debt Grows, Gets Out Of Hand

    One in five Americans struggle to pay off their debt. Over time, that same debt is multiplied, making it impossible to get out of that financial hole. NBC 5's Samantha Chatman explains how debt grows and what you can do to make it stop. (Published Friday, Feb. 23, 2018)

    One in five Americans struggle to pay off their debt. Over time, that same debt is multiplied, making it impossible to get out of that financial hole.

    Medical debt is the single largest cause of bankruptcy in America. As the cost of health care keeps rising, tackling it becomes an even bigger challenge.

    But NBC 5 Responds is on a mission to help families get out of medical debt.

    The Problem

    Chances are, you or someone you know is facing medical debt, buried in bills and doesn't know how to get out.

    The problem is so widespread, it contributes to more than 60 percent of bankruptcies in America.

    "You're one illness away, or accident away, from financial ruin in this country," said Craig Antico.

    He knows all about medical debt, after all, he used to be a debt collector.

    Medical Debt ExplainedMedical Debt Explained

    Medical debt is the single largest cause of bankruptcy in America. Here's a simple video explanation of how it happens and what NBC 5 is doing to help forgive some of the debt.

    (Published Friday, Feb. 23, 2018)

    How Medical Debt Gets So Bad

    Typically, medical institutions take your debt and sell it to a debt buyer at a deep discount.

    That means you now owe the debt buyer, which is oftentimes a collection agency.

    If the debt buyer can't collect, they bundle your debt with other debts into a debt portfolio.

    That portfolio with your debt is then sold to another debt buyer.

    The cycle continues and interest piles up until the debt is paid.

    Taking on the Crisis

    Chris Antico founded RIP Medical Debt, which is a non-profit organization that pays and forgives medical debt for people across the country.

    "Once you do something and you know how to do it, you do it well, you oftentimes stay in it," Antico said.

    He's turning knowledge into power.

    But even his group can't reach everyone.

    "It's very, very difficult for a consumer to sort through the medical debt," said Southern Methodist University professor Mary Spector.

    She said consumers are living in fear.

    "They're worried to pick up the phone. They're worried to answer the door. They're worried to pick up the mail. They don't know what they're rights and responsibilities are and so they're fearful," she explained.

    Don't Ignore Your Debt

    "Ignoring it, not showing up in court, means the collector is going to win without anything and they can take a default judgment and it's more valuable than the debt that can go to your bank and start garnishment proceedings," Spector said.

    Medical debt can be unpredictable, but it will impact your life if ignored.

    "If you have a $100 medical debt on your credit report, it can drop 30 to 100 points. That puts you out of a mortgage, puts you up on the chart for insurance," Antico explained.

    But with the help of rip medical debt-and other organization, this financial epidemic is being challenged-head on.

    Resources

    NBC 5 Responds is opening up a phone bank to answer anyone's questions and concerns about medical debt. The phone bank will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

    If you have a bill you can't pay for:

    Transformance is offering a free debt management help session. Call 1-800-249-2227.

    GreenPath Financial Wellness offers credit counseling and debt counseling immediately. Call their Plano office at 972-423-0600 or their McKinney office at 972-542-0257.

    For financial education:

    Transformance financial education provided in depth financial education webinars to impact people’s financial wellness. This includes issues on credit, family life and events, and other issues. Call 1-800-249-227.

    GreenPath Financial Wellness offers credit counseling and debt counseling immediately. Call their Plano office at 972-423-0600 or their McKinney office at 972-542-0257.

    Ways You Can Help

    If you'd like to donate to help relieve someone in North Texas of medical debt, click here.