Whether due to an unexpected diagnosis, emergency room visit, surgery or more, medical bills can quickly become a source of overwhelming financial stress. While many Oregonians may do their best to financially prepare for such medical emergencies, sometimes health insurance and emergency savings may not be enough to account for a sudden accumulation of expensive medical bills.

A recent survey published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that medical debt played a substantial role in the decision to file for bankruptcy for nearly 60% of people. Balancing growing medical debt can feel like a never-ending cycle. Here are several steps to take before making the leap to file for bankruptcy:

Consider possible alternatives to bankruptcy

In some situations, you may be able to work with your medical provider to develop a plan to more realistically pay your debt. Contact your creditor to inquire about the possibility of developing a payment plan or a settlement strategy. If this is not a realistic option, some hospitals offer assistance programs, which you can inquire about through the financial or billing office.

Don’t delay making a decision on what to do

Deciding whether to file for bankruptcy is not an easy or quick choice. However, substantially delaying filing for bankruptcy can leave you with mounting debt and constant harassing calls from creditors. Additionally, you may eventually face collections actions from your creditors.

Choose which type of bankruptcy is right for you

While medical debt may be the only form of debt you struggle with, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires the disclosure of all your debts, assets, property and more. Chapter 7 offers a more traditional, straightforward bankruptcy process for those who qualify, while Chapter 13 offers the opportunity to develop a repayment plan over a three- to five-year period.

Understand which debts are dischargeable

If you do have multiple forms of debt, understand that bankruptcy cannot relieve you of all your debt obligations. Fortunately, bankruptcy can relieve you of unsecured debts, which include medical debt, credit card debt and more. Debts you may not be able to discharge can include student loan debt, tax debt, child support obligations and more.

Managing medical debt can be frustrating and you may feel blindsided by how quickly the expenses accumulate. Filing for bankruptcy can provide many with an opportunity to move forward.