Bankruptcy and Medical Bills
It is always upsetting to see someone get themselves into financial trouble. However, it is more upsetting when someone is in financial trouble when they did nothing to cause the debt. Such is the case with medical debt.
Medical Problems and Debt
It is an insult to existing injury when someone with a terrible disease or a horrible injury now also has to deal with medical bills associated with treatment for their medical condition.
Unfortunately, it is common. One study done by the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that close to 30% of cancer patients ended up with financial hardship because of medical bills and expenses. Even for those with insurance, co-pays, deductibles, or uncovered treatment can drive an insured person into bankruptcy.
Many who were surveyed said that debt affected their medical decisions. Many said that they had to alter or refuse needed care just out of concern for the costs involved with treatment.
Medical debt is actually the most common form of debt that is in collection nationally.
Why Medical Debt is Different
The good news is that medical debt gets no special treatment in bankruptcy; it is dischargeable like any other kind of common debt.
But medical debt is different in how it is incurred. Someone who has medical needs is not acting voluntarily; they are not choosing to buy something too expensive or live beyond their means. Rather, they have been stricken with an illness or injury that they didn’t want or ask for.
After a bankruptcy discharge, someone can opt to live their financial life differently to avoid mistakes that may have been made in the past. But nobody can anticipate when or if medical bills may be incurred or how much they may cost. No matter how hard we try, we can’t be “responsible” in avoiding medical debt. It either strikes or it does not, and we often have no control over it.
Someone with a medical problem may need yearly procedures, tests, or diagnostics. They may need continual treatment.
Even if someone could anticipate needing medical care, it is often impossible to determine how much that medical care will cost. Unlike a TV or a car, which you can price out, you don’t get to pick the “cheapest” medical care, or choose which medicine is most affordable.
Paying Medical Debts
Legally, all debts in a bankruptcy must be listed—even if you want to pay them and don’t want them discharged.
You can always choose to pay a medical debt voluntarily later on, if you want to do so. Some choose to do this to maintain good relationships with doctors or other trusted medical providers. That is up to you. But at least bankruptcy will get you out from under the crushing financial burden that medical bills can cause.
If medical bills are mounting and you need to get out from under them, we may be able to help you. Call the West Palm Beach bankruptcy lawyers at Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan at 561-264-6850. Let our bankruptcy attorneys help and advise you in your bankruptcy case.