New NC Bill Could Force Additional Transparency for Your Healthcare Costs - John T. Orcutt - Bankruptcies Caused by Medical Debt Skip to main content

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With Medical Bills Now Causing So Many Bankruptcy Filings, a New NC Bill Could Force Additional Transparency for Your Healthcare Costs



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One of the biggest problems facing Americans today is undoubtedly the cost of healthcare. The price tag attached to medical treatments and prescriptions keeps rising, while the average household income remains stagnant. The problem is even bigger for those people who are uninsured. If you are one of the almost 50 million Americans currently without health insurance, you’ve probably had to choose between going to the doctor or waiting it out at home due to the cost.

While most states offer some form of Medicaid to low-income families, it’s the middle-class that are in trouble when it comes to healthcare costs. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation did a study in late 2010 and found that the middle-class members of America are losing their health insurance faster than any other income group.

The problem for middle-class families is that employer provided health insurance is falling at an alarming rate and no one is bothering to pick up the slack. The total number of uninsured in this income group rose from 10.5 million to 12.9 million, which is a larger increase than any other group across the board.

Think about it, if you’re considered a middle-class family, you’re not eligible for state provided healthcare assistance because you make too much money. On the other hand, you likely can’t afford to go out and buy a great healthcare coverage plan for your entire family because the plans cost so much money each month. In 2013, the average health insurance plan costs per person are projected to jump up to $11,188 and that’s just for one person. Imagine how much that would cost a family of four.

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Making the problem clear, a study conducted by Harvard researchers revealed that 62 percent of all bankruptcies were directly related to medical debt.  In fact, 92 percent of people filing bankruptcy due to medical debt had healthcare related bills totaling over $5,000 dollars. Those debtors were all well-educated, owned their own homes and were considered members of the middle-class.

So, is there any light at the end of this healthcare tunnel for North Carolina’s middle-class? The answer is maybe. Last week, the North Carolina Senate unanimously passed a new bill that will attempt to create more transparency for hospital and other healthcare costs.

Known as Senate Bill 473 (SB 473), the bill requires all NC hospitals and surgical facilities to disclose the costs of the 100 most commonly performed inpatient services and the 20 most commonly performed surgical and imaging procedures. This bill will include revealing the cost of these procedures for uninsured patients, Medicare and Medicaid recipients, State Health Plan members and those patients who are covered by North Carolina’s five leading insurance companies.

In addition, SB 473 will give you a longer amount of time to request an itemized bill from healthcare providers, plus it requires hospitals and physicians to give you an invoice that is written in clear, easy-to-read language. That way you don’t need a dictionary to read your itemized billing statement from the hospital. SB 473 also forces healthcare providers to give you a mandatory 30 day notice before turning any bill over to collections and puts some real limitations on a hospital’s ability to place a lien on your home for unpaid debt.

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The changes made by SB 473 are a definite step in the right direction, especially for North Carolina’s middle-class. While the bill does not do anything to actually decrease the cost of healthcare costs, it does make it more difficult for providers to overbill the uninsured or place your home in danger due to the rising problem of medical debt.

If you are drowning in medical debt and don’t see any way out, one of the best things you can do is consult an experienced North Carolina bankruptcy attorney. They can help you decide if filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the answer to a fresh start.



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