Posts Tagged: ‘medical debt’

Tips for Seniors to Avoid Medical Debt

November 6, 2017 Posted by kingcade

Open enrollment began November 1, 2017 for health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act.  On October 15, open enrollment began for Medicare recipients.  For many seniors, Medicare enrollment is a complex process that does not always cover all medical bills and expenses.  As a result, some seniors are left with thousands of dollars in medical debt.  Here are some ways seniors can stay one step ahead and avoid medical debt:

Set savings aside to cover unexpected medical expenses.  A recent analysis found couples may need as much as $350,000 for medical bills post retirement.  Factor this amount in when saving for retirement.

Understand Medicare options and costs. Remember to sign up for Medicare at the right time. Most people are eligible to enroll in Medicare beginning three months before their 65th birthday. Enrollment continues until three months after they turn 65. You can choose standard Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. The second option offers lower out-of-pocket costs, but a higher monthly premium, for coverage through an HMO or PPO.

Gather all personal information and keep it organized.  Have this information readily available so a loved one or caregiver can help manage your healthcare if you are hospitalized or unable to do so.  This should include a daily list of medications, medical providers, your medical history and medical and legal documents such as advance medical directive and a will.  Here is a checklist to help manage your personal medical information.

Review medical bills carefully.  A recent study found that 49 percent of Medicare medical bills contain errors or unnecessary charges. When you receive a bill for a procedure, hospitalization or nursing care, take time to review it for accuracy. If you received only a total due, request an itemized list of services provided.

Avoid putting medical expenses on a credit card.  More than half of adults over the age of 50 put medical bills on their credit cards, according to a recent survey by AARP.  Request an affordable payment plan from your medical provider.

Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources: http://www.wrex.com/story/36647166/8-must-dos-for-seniors-who-want-to-avoid-medical-debt

 

Steps to Take if You Are Facing a Medical Debt Lawsuit

October 17, 2017 Posted by kingcade

If you have been sued by a debt collector or medical service provider, you know how stressful it can be.  According to the National Consumer Law Center, half of the collection items on consumers’ credit reports are from medical debt.  You may be tempted to ignore a medical debt lawsuit and hope it goes away.  But this is one of the worst things you can do, because the debt collector will automatically win by default.

Here are some steps you can take if you are facing a medical debt lawsuit:

  • Confirm the debt. You cannot properly address the lawsuit if you do not understand where the debt came from. Look back at all past medical bills and find the date of service and itemized list of services rendered. Mistakes can happen, so make sure and confirm all details are accurate.
  • Seek advice. Consumers sometimes make the mistake of representing themselves in these type cases.  Hiring an attorney to advise you is a wise move and does not have to cost a lot.  Many lawyers provide a free consultation before taking you on as client.  During this consultation, they will advise you on the best course of action for your particular situation.
  • Prepare for court. You must first prepare an answer to the lawsuit, including any defenses and countersuits. This will involve filing paperwork, mailing paperwork and showing up on the initial court date.
  • Understand wage garnishment. If you are found liable for the debt or you fail to answer the lawsuit, the judge will rule against you and the court may issue an order allowing the debt collector to garnish your wages. By federal law, they cannot leave you with less than 75% of your income or $217.50 per week — whichever is greater. Medical debt collectors are able to garnish your wages, but they cannot garnish Social Security benefits, disability insurance payments, unemployment insurance payments, VA benefits, pension distributions, child support payments, or public assistance benefits.
  • Watch out for balance billing. This happens when your hospital or medical provider bills you instead of (or in addition to) Medicaid or Medicare. This is a forbidden practice and you are not responsible for any amounts due when this happens. You can prove if you were a victim of balance billing by requesting an “Explanation of Benefits” from your insurer that states the amount they covered and the amount you still owe.
  • Stop lawsuits before they happen. Make sure the hospital did not make an error that resulted in a larger bill.  Have your bill examined by a medical bill advocate, who is familiar with medical billing and coding and request they review the charges.  You can start your search with the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants.  Debt collectors, hospitals, and other medical providers do not want to take you to court.  It costs them money, too and the odds of getting the full amount owed is slim.  They are almost always willing to work with you before filing a lawsuit.  Try to negotiate and apply for financial assistance.  You can also set up zero-interest payment plans directly with your healthcare provider.  Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.
  • Consider bankruptcy as an option. At any point in the process, you can choose to file for bankruptcy, which can completely discharge your medical debt. There are two types of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often considered the most straightforward kind of bankruptcy and allows consumers to gain a financial fresh start.  This requires you sell off your assets to discharge your debts. Despite what many people believe, it does not automatically mean you will lose your home, your car or your retirement savings.  If you file for Chapter 13, you do not have to sell off any assets, but the debt will not disappear.   Instead, you will be put on a 3-5 year payment plan in order to settle.

Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:

http://www.wftv.com/consumer/clark-howard/clark-your-life/before-you-respond-to-a-medical-debt-lawsuit-take-these-10-steps/616709645

Medical Debt the leading cause of Homelessness in South Florida

October 10, 2017 Posted by kingcade

Even with Obamacare still intact, a number of Floridians remain without health insurance.  Census surveys say that Florida has one of the highest uninsured populations in the nation, and of the top 25 metro areas, Miami ranks at the bottom three for healthcare coverage.

Medical debt now tops the list of reasons people become homeless in South Florida, according to a recent study. Drug addiction and mental health issues round out the top three.

The recent statistics come from addictions.com, where survey takers conducted in-person interviews with homeless people in South Florida this past July.  Interviewees overwhelmingly attributed hospital bills they could not pay or an addiction they could not overcome to the fact they were living on the streets.

Broward County’s homeless population has grown 6 percent since last year.  Of those surveyed, 42 percent said they had suffered a head injury and 33 percent said they had been beaten at one point while homeless.

In a number of states, the homeless have been helped by the expansion of Medicaid, and were able to receive healthcare for the first time in years.  Not the case in Florida, where state leaders denied the expansion of the program to cover 650,000 low-income residents.

Click here to read more on this story

Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

New Rule makes it Harder for Medical Debt to Impact your Credit Score

October 5, 2017 Posted by kingcade

Consumers are getting some good news when it comes to their credit scores.  A new set of rules have taken effect this week that will make it more difficult for medical debt to damage your credit score, it will also not hurt your chances of qualifying for new credit.

The three credit reporting agencies now have to wait 180 days before putting an unpaid medical bill onto your credit report.  Going back and forth with your insurance company over an outstanding medical bill?  Unpaid medical bills that later get paid by your insurance must be removed from your credit report as well.

This new rule builds additional time between patients and insurance companies to resolve such matters.  Up until this point, there was no grace period and medical debt could appear on your credit report as soon as it was reported as an unpaid debt.  Medical offices tend to do this on their own schedule, sometimes as early as 30 days, while insurers may take longer to fully process claims.

The new waiting period carves out time for patients, their doctors, and insurers to work through legitimate grievances, and makes it harder for unpaid bills to hurt your credit score.  It also allows much-needed time for those suffering from illness and injury to sort out who owes what.

Credit bureaus have taken steps to remove medical bill collections that are less than 180 days old.  One out of five credit reports contain overdue medical debt, according to a 2014 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That means 43 million Americans have unpaid medical debt negatively affecting their credit.

If you are on a fixed income or struggling financially, letting the medical provider know you are not able to pay will give them a reason to offer you a discount or be placed on a reasonable payment plan.  If you cannot pay, tell them why you cannot pay.  Some states require hospitals provide free or reduced care to consumers within certain income limits.  Florida is one of these states.

Click here to read more on this story.

Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Why Debt Settlement is Still a Bad Alternative to Bankruptcy

September 8, 2017 Posted by kingcade

Increased regulation and enforcement has forced debt settlement companies to do what they promise in recent years, rather than charge people hefty upfront fees and fail to deliver any relief. However, debt settlement is not as consumer-friendly as the industry presents it, and many of the people who praise the companies and the process do not fully understand their alternatives or the long-term consequences of settling debts. A few of the minor consequences you might experience if you opt for debt settlement include: tax bills on the forgiven debt, a dip in credit scores and increased interest on new purchases.

Here are some of the biggest problems with debt settlement:

  • The debt settlement process takes years. Customers are told to stop paying their credit card bills, loans and other debts and put money into a savings account, however; negotiations may take years. According to the Freedom Financial Network, the largest debt settlement company, half of all customers eventually settle at least 75 percent of their debt, but the process usually takes three to four years. In the meantime, customers risk being sued over their debts. On the other hand, Chapter 7 bankruptcy halts collections activity, including lawsuits.
  • The math doesn’t add up. Debts are typically settled for 45 to 50 percent of the current balance, which is often higher than the initial balance because of late fees and interest. The average debt settlement fee is 20 percent of the debt at the time of enrollment. The amount of forgiven debt is usually reported to the IRS and is taxable as income. If the borrower is in the 25 percent federal tax bracket, the total cost of the settlement can equal 90 percent or more of the original amount owed.
  • Debt settlement companies tend to demonize bankruptcy. For example, National Debt Relief, a large debt settlement company, claims on the website, “Declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy may mean saying goodbye to most of the assets you have accumulated over the course of your life.” However, few people who file for Chapter 7, which erases most debts in three to six months, lose any assets thanks to state laws that typically protect most if not all of what filers own.
  • Debt settlement companies also claim that bankruptcy is harder on credit scores. However, both processes often drop scores into the mid-500s. Credit scores can begin the recovery process immediately after either process is complete. The difference is that Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically takes only months to complete, while debt settlement typically takes years to complete.

Click here to read more on this story.

If you have any questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.