For patients in San Diego and nationwide, medical debt is a double-whammy. Not only are you stricken with illness, but you’re also stuck with what can be immense medical debt. A recent study reveals that for our most ill—those hit hard with cancer—medical debt can be crippling.
Study Shows Effects of Medical Debt
A recent study by the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that 27 percent of cancer patients had some kind of financial hardship, and 37 percent said that it had adversely affected their work schedule. Needless to say, the problem was worse for those without insurance, but even for those with, co-pays and deductibles can lead to staggering debt.
Sadly, 39 percent of those surveyed said that they had to make cutbacks to their own medical care, such as not getting prescription medications. Eighty nine percent said it had negatively affected their lifestyle in some way, forcing cutbacks in day to day amenities and expenditures.
Medical Debt and Non-Medical Debt
Like other kinds of debts, medical debt is completely dischargeable in bankruptcy. In fact, medical debt is the number one form of debt currently in collections for Americans. But the similarities between medical debt and other forms of debt end there.
Unlike other kinds of debt, medical debt is generally incurred involuntarily. You may choose to incur debt to take a vacation. But nobody voluntarily opts to undergo cancer treatment or get treated after being in an accident. These are things that happen to us whether we want them to or not.
Medical debt is also different because it may be recurring. After obtaining a bankruptcy discharge, a debtor or consumer may choose to make better financial choices, or handle their finances differently. But those with medical issues can’t avoid going back for chemotherapy, or having followup procedures. As a result, many with medical debt aren’t able to take as much advantage of their bankruptcy “fresh start” as others.
Consumers rarely can anticipate the actual cost of medical debt before incurring it. You may know how much the car or TV you’re buying costs, but most patients entering San Diego hospitals may have no clue what their treatment will cost until they get the bill.
Discharging Medical Debt in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
To be discharged, medical debt must be listed on your Chapter 7 bankruptcy schedules.
Despite the overwhelming amount of medical debt, many debtors may feel uncomfortable discharging medical debt. Unlike American Express or their mortgage company, their doctor has a face and a personality (sometimes). Debtors therefore may feel like they are “cheating” their doctor, or they may feel the hospital has done a good job treating them and thus “deserves” to be paid.
But practically, medical providers are quite used to patients filing bankruptcy, and many will never remember or realize you discharged their debts through your Chapter 7.
The bankruptcy code also does not prevent you from paying debts back voluntarily. So if you happen to come into money later, and feel so obligated, you can always arrange payment at a later date with your medical providers.
Your bankruptcy attorney should discuss the proper timing of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy with you. If you can, it may be best to schedule your bankruptcy for after any medical procedures that you know you have coming up. A good bankruptcy attorney will speak with you about your upcoming medical needs, and how to best time the bankruptcy so that as much of your medical debt as possible ends up discharged.
No matter what kind of debt you have, a bankruptcy discharge may provide the peace of mind you need. Let experienced San Diego bankruptcy attorneys evaluate your case and your facts and discuss with you the best and safest ways to discharge your debts. Contact the Bankruptcy Law Center for a free consultation today.