Take a quick look around the internet and it's obvious that the top reason for bankruptcy continues to be medical expenses. Insurmountable medical bills lead to nearly 2 million people filing for bankruptcy in the U.S. each year, accounting for about 62 percent of personal bankruptcies, whether it's Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
While we may think of ourselves as cautious investors, mindful of credit card debt and conservative in our saving, it is hard to plan for every possible contingency. Rare illness, serious diseases or injury from a freak accident to you or someone in your family can lead to thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills. Suddenly vacation plans, college funds, retirement plans and everything else is gone.
Three reasons why this happens:
Is there really a choice?
If a family member needs a life saving operation or long-term treatment and/or care, it's nearly impossible to say no. The parents or decision makers may not even consider weighing costs, perhaps even avoiding the obvious because thought of the debt is just too much to bear during a difficult time.
Credit cards - just say no
Hospitals will often encourage patients to pay bills up front to ensure medical care. These organizations may also connect patients with credit card companies only too willing to cooperate by offering bill discounts like a year or more of interest free credit or a lower than average APR, but then they can balloon to nearly triple the interest rate when payments aren't met on time. The problem is that medical bills are a lot easier to gain financial assistance for than credit card debt, which is commonplace and undefined consumer debt where the typical fees and penalties apply. Consumer debt can deeply effect one's ability to secure a mortgage, rent an apartment or even get a job. Whenever possible, do not charge it.
The insurance policy - pay more for less coverage
The sad part is that many have thought they were covered - about 78 percent of those who filed medical-based bankruptcy have some kind of health insurance. The idea is that health insurance prevents policy holders from incurring large or modest costs, but the cost of health insurance policies continues to rise. This means employers will often shift the cost along to the employees. The so called "Cadillac plan" is comprehensive, but often it isn't manageable for the bottom line of many individuals or families - the cost of the plan alone may be enough to put some people in debt. Keeping their bottom line in order, insurance companies offer less coverage to manage price hikes.
The sad part is that some of this can be prevented. Oftentimes even people with health insurance don't go to the doctor because the deductible is too expensive. Cutting corners, people often won't fill an expensive prescription. This kind of thinking can lead to bigger and more expensive issues.
Medical payment plans are often complicated or unclear - sometimes you think you are paying the entire bill, but are actually only paying a portion. Or suddenly the bills start to arrive and it's already too late to dig yourself out. It's sound advice for those struggling with medical debt and considering bankruptcy to seek out the legal advice of an attorney specializing in bankruptcy. An experienced lawyer will help you come up with a plan for the smartest course of action to eliminate debt through bankruptcy protection.