Posts Tagged: ‘medical debt’

Medical Credit Cards Leaving Patients with Aches and Pains

January 18, 2018 Posted by kingcade

Long after the procedure is over, patients are still suffering with pain.  Not from the operation, but from the card they used to pay for the operation.  Medical credit cards are offered at the doctor’s office to pay for procedures, patients otherwise cannot afford at the time.  This type of credit seems like a quick fix for pricey procedures not covered by insurance.

However, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly a third of Americans report trouble paying their medical bills and many have taken on credit card debt to pay the expenses.  Medical debt is the No. 1 reason Americans file for bankruptcy.

One of the biggest dangers of medical credit cards are the misconceptions associated with them.  A number of patients think they are setting up an installment plan with the doctor’s office.  Many do not understand they have opened up a new line of credit with sky-high interest rates and strict penalties for even a single missed payment.

Most of these cards feature a “zero interest” promotional period for up to 18 months. But then the interest rate can jump to 25 percent or higher.  Some consumers never received a copy of the credit card terms and had to rely on explanations from medical staffers who had little training on the card details, in cases cited by U.S. authorities.

Another potential drawback is something called deferred interest. That means if a patient does not pay off the entire balance during the “interest-free” period, they can be retroactively charged for interest dating back to when they first signed up.

Before you sign up for a medical credit card, we advise that you research other options, first.  Medically necessary procedures may be available at a discounted rate or even for free at certain hospitals that provide some level of charitable care.  If it is not medically necessary, consider waiting until you can afford the procedure.   If you must use a credit card to pay for a procedure, use one that has terms and conditions you understand.

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 who can advise you of all of your options. 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 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.

Seniors and Bankruptcy: The Reasons Older Americans Are Filing

November 28, 2017 Posted by kingcade

Medical debt is the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy filings in the United States and a key reason more seniors are filing for bankruptcy.  Another reason for the uptick in bankruptcy filings among Americans 50 and older is the rising cost of healthcare.  We recently did a posting on Tips for Seniors to Avoid Medical Debt. The 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act made it more difficult for some consumers to qualify for bankruptcy, but it did not change the number of people who had more debt than they could afford to pay.

Making matters worse for older Americans are the collection practices of unscrupulous debt collectors. A recent report from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that debt collection was the most-complained about product or service for consumers over 62.

Bankruptcy brings with it emotional relief and getting their case filed and debts discharged relieves so much stress for our clients.  Seniors can protect assets through bankruptcy. Social security, 401(k)’s, pensions, qualified profit-sharing plans, and individual retirement accounts worth up to $1.245 million are all exempt from creditors during bankruptcy. This means that retirement income and savings are out of reach and protected under federal law. Protecting equity, which is the value of a property, minus the amount owed, is important for seniors. Using a homestead exemption, designed to protect the equity of a main residence in a bankruptcy, will usually keep retirees from losing their homes. Florida homeowners can take advantage of the fact that Florida does not have a limit on the equity that is exempt.

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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 McMaken 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.

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.