Perception and truth can be very different. You, like other New York consumers, may feel bankruptcy is a reflection of poor money management. You wouldn’t be wrong in some cases, but the bulk of bankruptcies are caused by something many consumers cannot control — extraordinary medical expenses.

NerdWallet Health projected 20 percent of adults in the U.S. — 56 million people — would have problems paying medical expenses in 2013. Of that number, 10 million American adults under 65 were expected to have medical bills they couldn’t pay, despite having consistent health care insurance coverage. More than 25 million people may have taken fewer prescription drugs than needed because they couldn’t afford medication.

An estimated 1.7 million bankruptcies were due to occur due to medical debt. It doesn’t take much time to run up enormous bills at a doctor’s office or hospital if you’re uninsured or underinsured. Adults 19 to 64 also suffer in other ways.

NerdWallet calculated that 35 million adults would be hounded by collection agencies for overdue health care bills. Another 17 million were expected to have credit scores lowered due to medical bills. Eleven million were projected to use credit cards for medical debt, and 15 million were forecast to empty savings accounts for the same purpose.

Americans are doing more than skipping pills and delaying drug refills. Researchers predicted that 10 million adults would forego necessities like food or mortgage payments, to pay medical debt in 2013. Sadly, the financial problems of adults were expected to affect more than 16 million children.

Consumers can take proactive steps to curb high medical costs by shopping around for medical services. But, that works only when you know in advance medical care and treatment are required.

The takeaway is overwhelming medical debt is hurting a lot of New York consumers. An attorney may be able to help relieve this debt through bankruptcy.

Source: NerdWallet.com, “NerdWallet Health finds Medical Bankruptcy accounts for majority of personal bankruptcies,” Christina LaMontagne, accessed Oct. 02, 2015