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How often is bankruptcy related to medical problems?

Many New Yorkers probably have had to deal with medical expenses even after a relatively minor illness or common course of treatment. Particularly for those who do not have the best health insurance, these bills can pile up quickly, as some residents of Rockland or Garnerville may have plans leave them responsible for a large deductible, to the tune of thousands of dollars.

It is not uncommon for medical debt to drive a family in to consumer bankruptcy, but exactly how common it is depends on who you ask. According to one group, one of whom was a noted bankruptcy scholar and is now a well-known politician, up 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies have a significant connection to medical problems.

Other groups of experts aren't so sure of these statistics, however. Based on a different interpretation of the same raw data, one group concluded that it was more likely that 1 in 5 of all bankruptcies were caused by a medical emergency or prolonged and debilitating medical problems. While this number is still pretty high if one thinks about it, it is not the same as saying over half of all consumer bankruptcies are related to medical bills.

In another study, a group examined cases in which a person had to go to the hospital and then owed significant medical debt as a result. They concluded that fewer than 1 in 20 bankruptcies were attributable to the large and often unexpected expenses associated with hospitalization.

However common it is, the reality is that many New Yorkers may have to turn to Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in order to clear up financial problems associated with medical debt.

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