Study Finds Medical Bills Chief Cause of Bankruptcy

A recent study confirms what bankruptcy attorneys already know: medical bills can force a family into bankruptcy. Medical debts account for two thirds of all bankruptcy filings, according to the study, which outpaces mortgage debt and credit card bills as the main reason for filing bankruptcy.

The study analyzes data from the U.S. Census, Centers for Disease Control, the federal court system, and other health-care system information. It finds that 56 million Americans struggle to pay medical bills – 20% of the population between the ages of 19 and 64. Medical insurance is not an answer. The study estimates that nearly 10 million adults with medical coverage will incur medical bills this year that they cannot pay. Some Americans pay with credit cards, deplete savings, reduce or stop prescribed medications, or forgo necessities such as rent, food and utilities to pay medical bills. In the long run these actions cause financial failure. The interest from credit cards compounds the debt problem; individuals without savings often turn to high interest short term loans or incur fees for unpaid bills; and omitting needed prescription medications can result in increased medical expenses down the road. It is estimated that 25 million American’s do not take medication as prescribed because it is too expensive.

Families struggling with medical bills turn to the federal bankruptcy laws for help because it works. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges medical expenses from a one-time traumatic event; and Chapter 13 provides time to repay all or a portion of the debt over three to five years. Chapter 13 is often a wise choice if there is an on-going medical condition that requires expensive hospitalization. While under bankruptcy protection during a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor can include medical expenses that arise after filing, can dismiss the case and re-file to include the debts, or can convert to a Chapter 7 and discharge the entire amount.

If you have medical debts you cannot pay, speak with an experienced attorney about your bankruptcy options. Bankruptcy can provide immediate relief from creditor collection and can be a long-term solution to your debt problems.