How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Can Help When A Cancer Diagnosis Wrecks Your Finances

Submitted by Rachel R on Tue, 11/08/2016 - 9:51am

How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Can Help When A Cancer Diagnosis Wrecks Your Finances

Cancer can wreck your finances

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Cancer is a terrible illness, and while it’s increasingly survivable thanks to modern medical technology, one thing that that might not recover is your finances. Fighting cancer is costly, even for those who are insured. Roughly three percent of cancer survivors go on to file bankruptcy and around 30% find themselves mired in debt after their treatment is complete.

Why Does Cancer Cost So Much Even With Insurance?

There are very few policies (if any) that don’t require a deductible, copays, and coinsurance for treatments. Typically, all three of these will come into play during your cancer treatment. Some policies have deductibles of several thousand dollars, so that is money you have to come up with before your insurance will start covering services and treatments.

Those who don’t have the cash lying around might run up their credit cards to pay for services until they meet their deductible. After that, some policies require copays and some require coinsurance—and some need both. Copays are when you pay a fixed dollar amount for a service such as a $50 fee per office visit to see a specialist. Oncologists are specialists, so your copay amounts can add up fast.

Coinsurance is calculated as a percentage of the total charge. For instance, some insurances may cover 80% of a hospital stay while you pay the other 20%. That can run up the balances owed on your credit cards or owed directly to the hospital or doctor. This can all add up to tens of thousands of dollars of debt. It’s money well-spent to save your life, but the debt can be crushing.

Costs Extend Beyond Medical Treatments

Operations, doctor visits, prescription drugs, and a hospital stay can all be tremendously costly. But that’s not all. There are also transportation costs to and from treatments. If you have to travel far from home for the treatment, there may be hotel costs and other travel expenses. Time off work can be crippling to your budget unless you have enough medical leave and vacation to cover your missed days. Your household income might also dip for those who take time off work to care for you.

Some patients struggling with their finances might impair their future health by choosing not to take certain costly treatments. A study presented by UPI on patients at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit found that 52% of 1000 patients studied faced financial strife while undergoing treatment. The study also considered the racial makeup of patients and found that 31% of black patients went into debt and 18% of white patients went into debt during treatment.

Also, 21% of black patients made treatment decisions based on finances, including skipping doses of costly medications or avoiding office visits. The same behaviors were noted in 15% of white cancer patients in the study. The research at the Cancer Institute in Detroit also found that cancer patients drained their savings and retirement accounts and used other assets to help pay expenses. For all patients, overall net worth, quality of insurance, and employment status all played into resulting debt.

How Bankruptcy Can Help

If you have emerged from cancer treatments and are ready to embrace your life as a cancer survivor, debt can weigh you down. Whether you have medical bills outstanding and unpaid or have maxed out your credit cards to cover costs of treatment, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help. This bankruptcy chapter can fully discharge your medical bills and credit card debt within months of filing. If you were unemployed for a time due to your cancer, timing of bankruptcy is important.

To see if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the last six months of income is averaged. If your income was lower because of time off for treatment, you might have a preferential window for filing. If you’re in debt from cancer treatments and live in North Carolina, contact the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt today to find out more. Call +1-919-646-2654 for a free North Carolina bankruptcy consultation at one of our convenient locations in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Wilson, Greensboro, Garner or Wilmington.

 

 

Resources:

Cancer cost study

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