Unless you are uber-rich, you may only be an illness away from bankruptcy. As early as 2009, CNN reported that 62 percent of all United States personal bankruptcies could be traced to medical bills. Even more shocking, many of those forced into bankruptcy by medical bills are middle class people with health insurance.
What is going on? Will the Affordable Care Act fix this lunacy?
Prior to 2013, many health insurance policies had lifetime limits. If an insured had a serious costly illness, they could easily reach the medical insurance policy limit, leaving that person without insurance.
Even the elderly do not escape when covered with Medicare Part A and B. There are copays associated with Part B, and limits on days of skilled nursing care, rehabilitation care, and more. Those copays can quickly add up for someone on a fixed income, choosing to pay rent or pay a medical bill is not uncommon and these folks are especially vulnerable to forced bankruptcy stemming from medical bills.
Although health care costs were largely related to these bankruptcy filings, poor health caused bankruptcy indirectly by causing lost income due to medical leave from work or perhaps taking a mortgage out to pay medical bills, and being unable to pay it back later.
The Huffington Post recently ran a story by Richard Eskow in which he argued that while the Affordable Care Act has its good points; it still does little to help folks with the high cost of care. A family of four can now expect to pay nearly $10,000 for health care – this includes costs for the family share of insurance premiums, copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses. This is the highest cost of any Western country in the world. If medical expenses are pushing you towards bankruptcy, contact an experienced bankruptcy debt attorney.
The CNN story did express some doubt that the number of bankruptcies did not accurately define the problem that American families have with medical costs. While medical bills may have pushed many into bankruptcy, more families most likely continue to limp along – the threat of bankruptcy only one more illness or unpaid day off from work away.
Peter Cunningham, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan policy research organization in Washington, D.C. says that his organization estimates that issues related to medical bills unduly stress around 20 percent of American families.
Today, bankruptcy does not carry the same stigma it did only a few years ago. If you find that your medical bills combined with your other obligations make it difficult or impossible to pay all you owe you should contact an experienced bankruptcy and debt attorney for help.