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Bankruptcy may be only solution to large medical debts

A sudden or chronic illness can ruin a family's finances. With the high cost of medical care these days, it is often true whether or not there is health insurance, since even the co-payments on hospital stays and surgical procedures can quickly mount up to unmanageable levels. Many families in Garnerville, New York, Rockland, New York, and elsewhere have experienced this. A consumer bankruptcy, however, provides an opportunity to get out from under crippling debt and get a fresh start in life.

Wise consumers have attempted, in many cases, to try to reduce the outrageously high cost of medical care. In some instances, they shop around for a less expensive hospital, as the cost for some procedures can vary greatly between different medical facilities - sometimes for no apparent reason. In one instance, patients undergoing the same knee surgery at one hospital were charged over three times the amount charged by another hospital in the same community, only a brief drive away.

Hospitals, however, often make it difficult to learn in advance what all their charges will be, and this strategy is seldom really possible when a person needs sudden treatment on an emergency basis, such as after a serious accident.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to simply ask outright for a lower rate and negotiate with a health care provider. Pointing to what government agencies pay for equivalent treatment can often be helpful. Medicare gets, on average, a 73 percent discount on medical bills, according to one survey. Many hospitals and doctors, however, simply won't negotiate.

An individual or family facing massive medical bills will often find that a personal bankruptcy, whether a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, could be an answer to crushing debt. In many cases, it may be possible to save a home, car, or other valuable personal assets.

Source: NY Daily News, "How to negotiate hospital bills and avoid medical bankruptcy" Christinas Lamontagne, Aug. 20, 2013

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