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Medical Benefits, Bills and Bankruptcy


When President Obama signed landmark health care legislation into law, it meant unprecedented changes for Americans seeking better medical insurance and facing crushing medical debt. For many, these changes can’t come quickly enough. Even amid surging unemployment and a national housing crisis, health care expenses have quickly become the primary budget buster for millions of beleaguered Americans. According to a Harvard study recently reported in the LA Times, medical bills played a role in 62% of personal bankruptcies filed in 2007, up 7% from 2001. Shockingly, 78% of these filers actually had health insurance.

As these staggering numbers reveal, medical expenses are a primary reason many average people just like you end up filing for bankruptcy. While filing for bankruptcy is never an easy option, sometimes it feels like no amount of insurance appears to fully “insure” that bills will be covered in the event of an unexpected injury or illness. And, as many of you already know, medical bills are rarely small, with any preexisting condition exacerbating even the ability to get paltry coverage for these prior and future physical and mental ills.

So, in this already tough economic environment, what’s the best way to attempt to avoid mounting medical costs?

Employer Plans
Well, if you’re fortunate enough to be employed or considering a new career, your obvious first step is seeking coverage from employer sources.  Inquire about what types of health benefit plans exist for employees like you, including health subsidies, co- or partial payments, health reimbursement and savings accounts, and deductibles. While even the most basic employer plans can be expensive, and all insurance seems to have its limits, they can provide much-needed peace of mind for families facing minor illness and injury.  Also, health care reforms will yield more employee-coverage as employers receive incentives for keeping workers insured; and, at the same time, citizens will have more health care options, driving costs down and providing additional and available coverage.

Health Insurance Transition Plans
If you are currently unemployed like so many, today you currently have the option of coverage while in health insurance transition, such as a COBRA plan. While these plans are normally more costly than employer-based plans, they can provide coverage for up to 18 months after being laid off. In addition, recent health care legislation will mandate uninsured citizens to sign up for more available insurance plans, with the strategy that more buy-in will lower costs and help pay for better health care options in the future.

Parental Coverage and Preexisting Conditions
While some of these positive changes are years away, more immediate reforms mean groups long discriminated against for their age, gender, and health, can now brief a bit easier. In the coming months, parental insurance will be extended to young adults (up to age 26), preventing medical bills from taking young people to the financial brink in an especially unfriendly job market for recent grads. And, one of the more groundbreaking reforms is that insurance companies can no longer use preexisting conditions to deny individual coverage or charge higher rates based on preexisting conditions, gender, or other formerly exacerbating factors. Without preexisting conditions standing in the way, many Americans will now have access to insurance like never before, creating one less barrier to affording the very hefty medical bills that would normally lead directly to bankruptcy.

Medical Bankruptcy
However, as mentioned, some of these reforms are months, if not years away. And many insured and uninsured people need more immediate financial help. If you are suffering from illness, injury and out of control debt, and considering filing a medical-related bankruptcy, it is important to understand that medical bills are considered unsecured debt and can be discharged entirely under Chapter 7. If you are instead filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your medical bills can be significantly reduced with a payment plan over time. In either situation, bankruptcy may be just what you need to help you get back on your financial feet again.

The bankruptcy experts at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt offer a totally FREE debt consultation and now, more than ever, it’s time to take them up on their offer. Just call toll free to +1-919-646-2654, or during the off hours, you can make your own appointment right online at Simply click on the yellow “FREE Consultation Now” button and let these experts smoke out your next best financial steps.

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