This is the No. 1 reason Americans file for bankruptcy

When we think about consumer debt, we tend to point a finger at folks for whom shopping sprees are a way of life. But the real reason a large number of Americans wind up in financial trouble has nothing to do with self-indulgence or an inability to resist temptation. Rather, it’s a matter of medical debt.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than a quarter of U.S. adults struggle to pay their medical bills. This includes folks who have insurance, whether independently or through an employer. In fact, medical debt is the No. 1 source of personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S., and in 2014, an estimated 40% of Americans racked up debt resulting from a medical issue.

Now it’s not shocking to learn that countless Americans struggle with medical debt, but what is surprising is the extent to which insured individuals have trouble keeping up. Last year, TheNew York Times reported that 20% of Americans under 65 with health insurance had trouble paying their medical bills over the past year. Of those, 63% claim to have used up all or most of their savings to tackle their healthcare expenses, while 42% took on an extra job to cover their costs.

Unfortunately, having health insurance in no way guarantees that you won’t fall victim to medical debt. But if you take steps to build an emergency fund, you’ll be better protected in the face of an unanticipated bill.

Emergency savings can help

A big reason so many people wind up in debt over medical issues is that they don’t have adequate savings to cover an unexpected cost. According to a recent GoBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, while 34% have no money in the bank whatsoever. But there’s a reason we’re all advised to sock away enough savings to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Even those of us with insurance are vulnerable in the face of a costly injury or illness, and without ample savings, collectively, we’re taking a pretty big risk.


You can read the other half of this article on USA Today here:

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