Medical Debt

The Reasons to Avoid Paying Medical Bills with Credit Cards

Most people hope to avoid having long-term medical debt on their credit report, which is why it can be tempting to want to pay off medical debt with a credit card. However, the consequences that come along with using one form of debt to pay off another can be enough to want to keep anyone from taking this route.   

Medical debt is reported to be the number one cause of U.S. bankruptcy filings. It has been reported that over two-thirds of all bankruptcies between 2013 and 2016 involved medical debt. According to a 2019 study, one in every three households carried credit card debt after using credit to pay off medical bills.  

Bankruptcy Law

How Often Can a Person File for Bankruptcy?

If you have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past and have found yourself facing financial trouble again, it is possible to file for bankruptcy a second time.  In fact, approximately eight percent of bankruptcy filers end up needing to file again at some point. Ultimately, how often someone can file for bankruptcy protection depends on the type of case he or she filed initially, as well as how much time has passed since that first case.  

One of the more commonly used forms of consumer bankruptcy is the Chapter 7 bankruptcy also known as a “liquidation” bankruptcy. This form of bankruptcy lasts a few months, allowing the filer to work closely with the bankruptcy trustee to sell any nonexempt assets to pay off qualifying debts. At the end of the case, the remainder of the filer’s debts, which are usually credit cards or other unsecured debts, are discharged. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is another form of consumer bankruptcy, also known as a repayment or reorganization bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the filer works with the bankruptcy trustee on a repayment plan, which lasts anywhere from three to five years, where the person pays off his or her debts, liquidating what is left at the end of the case.  

student loan debt

Student Loan Bankruptcy: A Solution to the Student Loan Debt Crisis

With an estimated $1.6 trillion owed in student loan debt nationwide, it comes as no surprise that solving the student loan crisis has been at the forefront of most political campaigns in 2020. However, many argue that the solution to the problem is much simpler than just forgiving student loan debt. In fact, the answer to solving the student loan crisis could lie in the United States Bankruptcy Code.  

Traditionally, student loans have been all but impossible to discharge in either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Since the creation of the Higher Education Act in 1965, Congress has continued to add rules that make discharging federal student loan debt more and more difficult in bankruptcy. In 2005, private student loans were added to the list of debts that were difficult to discharge in bankruptcy, regardless of how much the filer was struggling financially. 

Bankruptcy Law

The Pros and Cons of Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in 2020

For someone struggling financially, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case can offer him or her a fresh start and freedom from insurmountable debt. The year 2020 has pushed many consumers to the brink financially, and bankruptcy can offer the help a person needs to start the New Year debt-free.  

Pros of Filing Chapter 7  

As soon as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is filed, the consumer receives immediate protection from his or her creditors. This protection comes from the automatic stay that is issued by the court upon filing. The automatic stay puts a pause on all collection actions, including collection phone calls, legal proceedings to collect on a debt, wage garnishments, evictions, and foreclosures. The automatic stay also gives consumers a chance to breathe and work with the court and bankruptcy trustee.   

Bankruptcy Law

What Happens When You File for Bankruptcy? 

The bankruptcy process is meant to give consumers who are struggling financially a fresh start. However, many consumers hold off due to the fear of filing for bankruptcy, even if it is the best option. Bankruptcy cases have both positive aspects, as well as negative ones, that go along with beginning and successfully finalizing a case. It is important to understand how a bankruptcy case works before moving forward with filing so that the person filing knows what to expect.  

Automatic Stay 

One of the most positive aspects of proceeding with a consumer bankruptcy case is the automatic stay that accompanies the filing. As soon as a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is initiated, an automatic stay of all collection efforts against the filer is issued. What this means is the consumer’s creditors are temporarily blocked from moving forward on collecting any outstanding debt. This stay also stops wage garnishments, foreclosures, or completion of legal collections cases. The purpose of the automatic stay is to give the consumer a chance to work with the bankruptcy trustee on determining how various debts should be handled. A creditor can file a request to continue collection even though an automatic stay has been issued, but they can only continue if the request is granted.  

Medical Debt

What Are the Options When You Can’t Pay Medical Debt?

Medical debt presents a major problem for so many in South Florida. The cost of receiving medical care, even with health insurance, can push a financially stable person into debt. Escaping that debt can be a struggle. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has pushed countless consumers further into debt, and with a second wave of the virus likely, the problems could be far from over.

Medical debt is the leading cause of approximately two-thirds (2/3) of all consumer bankruptcies filed. According to a recent poll from U.S. News of approximately 1,500 Americans, just under 40 percent of them reported having serious trouble with managing their medical bills with at least one of these bills being sent to collections. Within this group, seven percent have been sued for collection of their medical debt. Six percent of them said they filed bankruptcy due to medical debt. 

Credit Card Debt

How to Negotiate Your Credit Card Debt

When someone owes a large amount of money on credit cards, the possibility of ever paying down that balance can seem impossible. Simply making the minimum monthly payments can be a struggle, as well, especially during the current pandemic. However, credit card companies would rather work with the consumer directly in lieu of the account going into default, forcing them to pursue a collection on the amount owed. It is possible to negotiate directly with the credit card company on the amount owed in certain circumstances.  

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, certain credit card companies are working with consumers who are behind on payment. This assistance is temporary in nature but can include pausing payments, reducing interest rates, waving late fees, and putting a pause on interest charges.  

Debt Collection

How to Avoid Resetting the Clock on Old Debt

Once a debt is past a certain age, collecting on that debt through legal channels is barred under Florida’s statute of limitation laws. However, if the person owing the debt is not careful, the debt can be reset, making the amount owed legally collectible once more. Knowing what to do to prevent that from happening is important for this reason.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations

Every state has a set of laws that governs how long a person or entity has to bring a legal claim on any given issue, including debt collection. If a claim is brought after that period has passed, the claim will likely be barred. When it comes to debt collection, this timeline is five years from the date the debt began for written contracts, including personal loans. If the debt is one with a revolving account, including credit card debt, the statute of limitations is four years.

Debt Relief

Debt Relief Services: Helpful or Harmful?

Although filing for bankruptcy can provide considerable relief to those who are facing insurmountable debt, bankruptcy is not always the best choice for everyone. While some may not qualify for bankruptcy, others may wish to use an alternative solution to solve their debt problems. This is where debt relief programs come in, claiming to help consumers negotiate with their creditors and provide a solution to settle the debt.

However, is it safe to use a national debt relief organization to resolve your debts? While some report positive experiences with these companies, others (many others) have reported negative experiences that resulted in them spending more money in the long run. Also, many consumers have been taken advantage of by debt relief companies that ended up collecting fees without actually providing any debt relief services.

Coronavirus, COVID-19, Financial Advice

When You Should Use Your Emergency Fund

Financial experts recommend that consumers put away a little money every paycheck towards an “emergency fund.”  This money is meant to cover the ‘unexpected expense,’ whether that be a car repair, medical bill, or essential home repair. With the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and many people losing their jobs, it may be time to utilize your emergency fund.

Financial Hardship

One of the most common circumstances where a person would utilize their emergency fund is in response to financial hardship. The stimulus funds offered by the CARES Act helped for a short period of time, and many landlords, mortgage holders, credit card companies and other creditors have been willing to work with individuals who are struggling to pay their bills as a result of this crisis. However, even with that help, a person may still need to take some money from their emergency savings to pay for bills that need paid. Once your income returns, then begin replenishing the money taken from savings.