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How to fend off medical debt and find relief if you can't

Many people in Oregon and throughout the U.S. are saddled with medical debt and know what a burden it can be. The cost of health care is extremely high and even if you have good insurance, you can be left to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket. So how can you prevent this from happening again or for the first time?

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report offers a few tips for staying away from medical debt. First is to know your insurance. If you know how much it covers for certain care and which doctors are part of your insurance network, you'll be able to save yourself money right off the bat. If you end up in an emergency situation, the research you've done will come in handy when you know which hospitals are in your network.

Related to emergency care is catastrophic health coverage. These plans often have very high deductibles, but the premiums are generally cheaper than regular insurance. Their purpose is to cover major illnesses and injuries that are very expensive to treat, so if you're concerned about a catastrophic injury, it might be something to consider.

Now that you've gone to doctors within your network and understand how much of your care your insurance company will cover, it's important to examine the bills from your provider. Although it can be time-consuming to look into your charges, it will pay off if something is wrong. If everything is correct but it is more than you can afford, reach out to your provider right away to see if you can negotiate a payment plan.

Lastly, save for your health care. Expensive medical care often arises unexpectedly, so you can benefit from setting aside money to use in an emergency situation.

While you can take certain steps to protect yourself from medical debt, sometimes it hits hard and there is no way around it. If it becomes too much to bear, it's important to know that there are options for getting out of it. Filing for bankruptcy is just one way to get out of medical debt.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "5 Ways to Avoid Medical Debt," Ben Edwards, Feb. 28, 2013

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