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Forghany Law P.C.

Changes to medical billing guidelines could help ease debt burden

For many people, going to the doctor or hospital isn't a pleasant experience. No one wants to deal with medical issues, but oftentimes it's necessary to take action. Concerns about paying for medical visits and treatments only compound this stress. Thankfully, a new set of medical billing rules created by the federal government and medical industry could help ease the pressure created by health care expenses.

On a basic level, the new medical billing standards provide guidance for patients looking to resolve disputes. Oftentimes, people find themselves dealing with issues in their hospital bills when their top priority should be getting healthy again. Observers believe that the rules should ease the burden for patients by making dispute resolution and payment processes fairer, which would hopefully prevent overwhelming medical debt from accumulating.

One thing to note is that these new standards for medical billing and collection are voluntary, which means that they aren't required to be adopted. However, a report from the Associated Press notes that widespread compliance is likely, since representatives from the health care and collection industries were present when the new guidelines were crafted.

As we pointed out in a post from Jan. 27, medical debt is one of the top reasons people file for personal bankruptcy. This isn't surprising, given that medical debt is a huge issue for working-age individuals and families, which is confirmed by a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund. According to the study, 41 percent of those in this age group have problems paying back health care costs.

By implementing more favorable standards for collecting medical bills, the hope is that a larger number of individuals can avoid personal bankruptcy. While fairer debt collection tactics are welcome, it's important to understand that bankruptcy might remain the best option for a number of people dealing with unsustainable medical bills.

Source: The Associated Press, "New Billing Standards to Help Patients With Debt," Linda A. Johnson, Feb. 13, 2014

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