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Medical Bankruptcies in the US

Medical Bankruptcies in the US

In the last 10 years, there have been countless studies and news reports detailing how medical bills have become the #1 reason Americans are filing for bankruptcy. Each year, thousands of people with health insurance leave hospitals fearing poverty and concerned about their overall financial situation, and it shouldn’t be this way. One bad fall or accident shouldn’t dictate the quality of a person’s life and future. Unfortunately, the health care industry is dominated by for-profit giants who lobby for harmful deregulations and unwise government policies.

A brief history of medical bankruptcy statistics and studies:

  1. In 2009, President Obama referenced a Harvard study during his State of the Union address. He announced that a new medical bankruptcy case is filed every 30 seconds.
  2. In 2011, researchers Matthew J. Notowidigbo and Tal Gross released a study claiming that out-of-pocket medical costs are responsible for 26% of all bankruptcies filed on an annual basis.
  3. In 2013, NerdWallet completed a study that proved unpaid medical bills affect 2 million Americans a year; these bills led 646,812 people to file for bankruptcy.
  4. In 2015, the Kaiser Family Foundation issued a survey about medical bills that revealed over 1 million people have declared bankruptcy due to medical debts.

There are hard limits to what an insurance policy is willing to cover. Unfortunately, this reality often forces patients to choose between life-saving treatments and the entirety of their savings accounts. For instance, many health insurance plans have hard limits when it comes to physical therapies, experimental treatments, and various prescription drugs. In some ridiculous cases, a surgeon might be “in network,” but the lab isn’t, or vice versa, leading a patient to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket. Certain policies only kick in after patients have incurred enough medical bills to qualify, meaning that they have to file for bankruptcy before they can even benefit from insurance relief.

Elizabeth Warren, a coauthor of the Harvard study, explained that gaps in coverage often leave people vulnerable to financial crises. This is particularly true in cases where employees switch jobs or can’t contribute to a health plan. She adds that COBRA, an insurance program that allows employees to keep their former company’s health insurance coverage, is an expensive and “cruel joke.”

How Can I Avoid Medical Debt & Bankruptcy?

It’s important to take preventative measures before an accident or emergency medical situation can impact your finances. Fortunately, there are ways that you can stay out of medical debt and avoid the bankruptcy process.

Follow these 15 tips to reduce or avoid medical debt:

  1. Research and understand your health insurance policy
  2. If possible, evaluate alternative insurance policy options
  3. Use a preferred pharmacy network
  4. Use Healthcare Bluebook to shop around for treatments and medical procedures
  5. Keep a savings or money market account that provides you with a financial cushion
  6. Check the accuracy of your medical bills before swiping your credit card
  7. Verify which items aren’t covered by your insurance policy
  8. Negotiate with the hospital to reduce your medical fees
  9. Contact the hospital’s billing department to discuss monthly payment arrangements
  10. Don’t ignore your medical bills
  11. Know the difference between a bill and an explanation of benefits
  12. Find out if you qualify for Medicaid (Medicaid can pay for the expenses you’ve already incurred)
  13. If all else fails, put the bill on your credit card to avoid dealing with a collection agency
  14. Don’t sign up for medical credit cards or loans offered by the hospital
  15. File for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Schedule a Consultation Today

The health care industry is characterized by complex medical bills, ludicrous insurance premiums, and exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses. In recent years, the life expectancy in America has noticeably declined with the rise of health care costs. If you find yourself struggling financially, it’s important to explore your options with a qualified bankruptcy attorney.

At Bach Law Offices, our Northbrook bankruptcy lawyers have a comprehensive understanding of the laws and regulations associated with this challenging legal process. Despite misconceptions, bankruptcy can protect both you and your family from the consequences of mounting medical debts. During your appointment, our knowledgeable and compassionate legal team can evaluate your case, thoroughly explain your legal options, and develop a strategy that achieves your legal objectives. With our help, you can start the next chapter of your life debt-free and prepared for the future.

Call Bach Law Offices at (847) 448-0025 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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