Bankruptcy Law, COVID-19, Medical Debt, student loan debt

Bankruptcy Reform Bill Proposed that will Discharge Student Loans and Medical Debt

The Medical Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2021 was unveiled by Democratic Senators this week in response to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The bill would make substantial reforms to the current bankruptcy code, making it easier for those struggling with student loan debt and medical debt to discharge the same in bankruptcy.

Currently, the bankruptcy code treats student loan debt differently from other types of consumer debt. Borrowers must show they meet the ‘undue hardship’ requirement in order to discharge their student loan debt in bankruptcy.

Medical Debt

How Medical Debt Affects Your Credit

Medical debt is a financial stressor for many Americans. A vital medical procedure or trip to the emergency room can set someone back thousands of dollars in medical bills, even with insurance coverage. However, if the patient is not able to pay back these bills, that medical debt can turn into an even bigger problem if it’s reported to the credit bureaus.

According to a study from Families USA, approximately 5.4 million Americans were laid off, losing their health insurance coverage between February and May 2020. This figure is 40 percent higher than the previous recorded annual losses. Without health care coverage, it is safe to assume many of these bills will go unpaid.  

Credit Card Debt, Medical Debt

How to Keep Medical Debt Off Your Credit Cards

With the cost of medical care increasing every year, many Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills. According to a recent study from NerdWallet, medical costs have increased 33 percent since 2009, while the national median household income has only increased 30 percent. To keep up with these costs, many consumers are forced to pay for their medical bills with credit cards. The problem is credit card interest rates can range anywhere from 10%-30% and come with additional fees and costs if timely payment is not made. Medical bills are expensive and paying them with your credit card will only add unnecessary interest fees to your bills.

Here are some tips that can help you avoid having to put medical bills on a credit card.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Medical Debt

How the Insured Fall into Medical Bankruptcy

There was a time when having health insurance was enough to assure someone that his or her medical expenses would be adequately covered and that he or she would not fall into debt due to one major medical crisis. However, today’s high deductible insurance plans and skyrocketing medical costs have made it impossible to stay out of medical debt. It is for this reason that so many American consumers are falling into what is called “medical bankruptcy” or bankruptcy due to medical debt.

According to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, 530,000 bankruptcies are filed annually due to medical debt. Even with coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act, consumers are still struggling to afford their medical bills. A lot of this has to do with the insurance coverage options and healthcare plans offered.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief

This Common Life Event Doubles Your Chances of Filing for Bankruptcy

Medical debt is a common cause of consumer bankruptcy filings.  Losing one’s health insurance, also puts individuals and families at an increased financial risk.  According to the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), when someone has an interruption in their health insurance coverage, this gap in coverage nearly doubles that person’s chances of filing for bankruptcy.

The ABI looked through figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more than 12,500 individuals.  Their findings revealed a “strong association” between losing insurance coverage and consumer bankruptcy filings. ABI narrowed down their research even further to look at 454 people between the years 2008 and 2014 with similar incomes and debt-to-income ratios, who all filed for bankruptcy in that span of time. While many of these bankruptcy filings were driven by health issues, job loss and divorce, a great majority of them had to do with the fact that the person or someone that depended on the insurance carrier did not have coverage at the time of their illness or injury.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Struggling with Medical Debt? You’re Not Alone.

When someone is going through a medical crisis, the last thing that person needs is additional stress. However, for millions of Americans, insurmountable medical debt is a reality that accompanies their illness or medical condition.  The Consumer Financial Protections Bureau reports 72 million Americans struggle to pay off medical debt, as of 2018. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the U.S.

According to a recent study by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Los Angeles Times, more than 50 percent of consumers have someone in their household who suffers from some type of chronic medical condition. Dealing with continual medical appointments, medication and monitoring of the condition can take its toll, especially on a family’s finances.

Even more staggering are the statistics reported by the American Cancer Society (ACS). According to their figures, more than 137 million Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills. Falling behind due to a medical condition can happen so quickly and easily. With the cost of medical care in our country, many of these patients end up losing everything they have because of their illness. The ACS data shows that 42 percent of cancer patients end up losing their entire life savings within just two years of treatment.

The ACS study looked at what they classify as high out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for medical care, not just care for the treatment of cancer, by focusing on patients between the ages of 18 and 64. Their study looked at several criteria, including lifestyle modification because of medical costs, temporary loss of employment because of medical treatment,  the need to refinance or mortgage the home due to medical bills, permanent loss of employment from medical treatment, and the need to sell the patient’s home just to pay medical bills. Other, more severe measures, included stopping necessary treatment because of the cost, and even considering suicide.

The ACS researchers looked at three different “domains” or areas of hardship, including financial hardship, psychological hardship, and coping behaviors. One-third of those surveyed in the category over the age of 65 reported hardship in at least one of the three areas surveyed of hardship. However, of those who were in the “employed” category, meaning between the ages of 18 and 64, over 50 percent of them reported hardship in at least one of the three categories. Women tended to be the group hit the hardest in these three domains.

An even more disturbing statistic showed that while more than half of those surveyed said they were struggling in one of the three hardship areas, one-fourth of those surveyed reported struggling in two of those domains. Unfortunately, as the cost of healthcare continue to rise, as do the prevalence of chronic medical conditions, this problem is only anticipated to get worse, which is why medical care and quality health insurance continue to be an issue on the forefront of politics.

How is Medical Debt Handled in Bankruptcy?

In bankruptcy, medical debt is treated the same as credit card debt. Medical bills are listed as general unsecured debt and can be easily wiped out in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.  Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never an easy one.  It can be difficult to get past some of the myths associated with filing for bankruptcy. Sometimes by waiting, an individual facing a lot of debt can find himself or herself in an even worse situation. Filing for bankruptcy can help protect valuable assets, including your home, car, IRA and social security.  It will put an end to wage garnishment and any lawsuit being filed to collect on the debt, thanks to the protections of the automatic stay.

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.

Related Resources:

https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/health-care

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Medical Debt a Factor in Two-Thirds of Bankruptcy Filings

Coming to the decision to file for bankruptcy is an extremely difficult and personal one to make, but for many Americans, they have no other choice but to file. Why are so many of them at the point where bankruptcy is their only viable option? According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, medical debt is the leading cause behind many of these bankruptcy filings.

The study was conducted by two medical professionals, two attorneys and a sociologist from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. The data reported showed that two-thirds of filers cited medical debt as the reason for their filing. They surveyed 910 Americans who filed for bankruptcy between the years 2013 and 2016. Of those surveyed, 58.5 percent reported that medical expenses either “very much” or “somewhat” contributed to their bankruptcy case. Additionally, 44.3 percent of those surveyed cited a serious illness that resulted in work loss as a contributing factor. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that medical reasons were one of the factors that led to them filing for bankruptcy.

It is estimated that approximately 530,000 medical bankruptcies are filed annually. Even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), medical bankruptcies are still a common occurrence. High medical costs can lead to the person falling into financial difficulties, but so can losing time at work or even losing a job because of an illness or injury.

The study concluded that, even with the ACA, those who are considered “chronically poor,” tended to be the group that was most affected by the ACA coverage expansion. This group tends to also not have access to credit or assets to utilize to handle unexpected medical expenses. Many of these filers are already strapped financially and unable to make ends meet. Of those surveyed, 45 percent of them said they filed for bankruptcy due to foreclosure or the inability to pay their mortgages; 44.4 percent stated they were living beyond their means; and 24.4 percent of them were struggling after a divorce or separation.

According to Dr. David U. Himmelstein, distinguished professor at Hunter College and the founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, the lack of sufficient healthcare coverage is a leading cause these filings. Lack of savings is also a contributing factor. All it takes is for one major, unexpected medical crisis for a person to fall into a desperate financial situation where he or she cannot pay medical bills, and struggle to afford basic living expenses.

How is Medical Debt Handled in Bankruptcy?

In bankruptcy, medical debt is treated the same as credit card debt. Medical bills are listed as general unsecured debt and can be easily wiped out in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.  Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never an easy one.  It can be difficult to get past some of the myths associated with filing for bankruptcy.  Sometimes by waiting, an individual facing a lot of debt can find himself or herself in an even worse situation. Filing for bankruptcy can help protect valuable assets, including your home, pension, IRA and social security.  It will put an end to wage garnishment and any lawsuit being filed to collect on the debt, thanks to the protections of the automatic stay.

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If you have 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.

Related Resources: https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/medical-debt-a-factor-in-two-thirds-of-bankruptcies-in-survey.html

 

 

 

Bankruptcy Law, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Is It Ever Too Late to Negotiate a Medical Bill?

Medical debt continues to be a large portion of debt collection proceedings, but many individuals facing large amounts of medical debt may not believe they have rights when it comes to negotiating the bill. For this reason, these individuals may delay contacting the provider to see if the bill can be reduced or if they could be placed on an affordable repayment plan. However, even if the person owing the medical debt waits months or even years to try to make good on the debt, it is usually never too late to negotiate a medical bill.

Properly Reviewing the Bill

Before negotiating a payment schedule or amount, it is always wise to carefully review the billing statement sent to the patient. The provider needs to properly bill for all services provided within a reasonable amount of time, and not doing this can often be seen as a breach of contract. In addition, it should never be assumed that all of the items listed in the bill are correct. It is recommended that the patient review what is listed, check with his or her calendar to make sure that they line up, and if they do not, bring this discrepancy to the attention of the provider. These corrections can be made even after a period of time passes and the bill has remained unpaid.

Negotiating Past-Due Medical Bills and Bankruptcy

It is possible to negotiate a medical bill, even if it is past due. At the end of the day, most of the medical service providers want to receive some type of payment, even if it is a lower amount.

While the company is within its rights to not negotiate on a bill that is past due, it is usually in the best interest of the company to take a reduced payment, than no payment at all.  Medical debt is normally classified as an unsecured debt in a bankruptcy case meaning it is the debt that is discharged at the close of the case. Therefore, it is highly possible the medical company will walk away without receiving any payment if the individual pursues a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.

Request Financial Assistance with Medical Debt

Medical providers will often offer financial assistance for individuals who are not able to pay for their medical bills. The company will not become aware of this issue if the consumer simply leaves the bill unpaid. It often helps to reach out and be screened for other programs, including financial assistance or state aid. The assistance can make it possible for the individual to pay off these debts in a manner that is much more realistic for the patient.

Speak with a Consumer or Bankruptcy Law Attorney

Depending on how much time has passed, it is recommended that the individual contact a consumer bankruptcy attorney to see if the statute of limitations has passed for these debts. Every state has a statute of limitations which controls the time period a creditor has to collect on a debt. Florida’s statute of limitations for medical debt is five years. However, if the patient negotiates and begins paying on the debt that falls out of this five-year period, this may revive the statute of limitations and then leave the person open to a lawsuit for the balance of the debt if he or she fails to continue paying. Therefore, it helps to speak first with an attorney regarding the debt before making any other decisions.

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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.